Angela Cross

No Dignity


“Dig – Neh – Tee,” I sounded out the pronunciation to myself while lying in bed and drumming up the oomph to get out of it

I allowed this word to linger in my mind and spread throughout my whole spirit. I hadn’t heard that word in such a long time. When I did hear it, it was usually in the context of describing someone great in history. Never or rarely have I ever heard it used in the smallness of every day. It’s such a giant of a word, though, that encompasses so many features of how to treat all living things.

I mean, I really wanted to understand this. I rolled over and grabbed my tablet. Opening it to the search bar, I even slowly and deliberately punched in each letter. Since I had already soaked the word into the fascia of my body, it seemed like my fingers felt the weight of responsibility to render the letters nearly divine.

“D-I-g-n-I-t-y.” I typed and the list of definitions popped up. All of them were almost identical.

Dignity – The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

State or quality I understood but, as usual for me, I needed to really understand another word in the definition, so I punched in…


Worthy – Having or showing the qualities or abilities that merit recognition in a specified way.

“Hmm…” I thought to myself, “who gets to decide who’s worthy (per the definition) of honor or respect?” Then, I decided that was a topic for another think through.

Back to dignity. What causes one to be treated without dignity? Continuing the pattern of extrapolation, I discovered that the definition of the word, undignified is, appearing foolish and unseemly, lacking in dignity.

“Ugh,” I thought, “this is getting complicated.” I know of at least one person who has told me, over the course of my life, that I was being foolish. Haven’t we all? I also know that I have been treated with zero dignity quite a few times over the course of my life. Almost to the point of dehumanization. Or, maybe actually to the full point of dehumanization. I was going to compare it to being treated like an animal, but I believe that animals should be treated with respect so that description is out.

“Worse than an animal then,” I whisper wryly.

I can think of the mildest example when I was on the highway and a guy in a cliche’ sports car drove up quickly behind me and got really close. When I didn’t move out of his way in the time, he thought I should, he swung his car to the right of me and screamed all sorts of undignified terms and phrases at me, before speeding off while giving me the notorious finger.

Did my existing and driving a little over the speed limit, which wasn’t fast enough for him, render me undeserving of dignity? Why did he get to decide in that moment that I was foolish or unseemly?

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Times that I was treated without dignity range from interactions with strangers, medical professionals, all the way up to close people in my life. I know I’m no exception to this pattern. Everyone can say that. Though some can say that happens to them more often than others. Some might not even be aware yet that they are being treated without dignity. And that’s really, really devastating to imagine…. because I used to be that person. In past occurrences that I’ve reflected on, I just didn’t know I was being treated without dignity. Of course, that’s not the case anymore. I certainly know when someone is being unkind to me.

But the difference is, I used to think I earned that treatment or deserved it because of my own conduct. Now, though? I have stepped into the role of knowing in my whole being that I don’t deserve to be anyone’s scapegoat. I had never deserved to be treated without dignity. And that has upended the whole can of worms in evaluating my relationships with people. It’s been a
pretty messy process, facing the dirt and slime of feelings and shame that I ever allowed it in the first place. It has shifted how I interact with people and what I allow to permeate the layer of what I believe about myself.

Allow. I allowed. I won’t allow.


Yeah…there it is.

“Ah,” I say, answering my first BIG question. “I get to decide that I’ll be treated with honor and respect. I already did actually.”

The answer to my second BIG question quickly followed…

I get to decide that I’m worthy.

And Then, There Was Dignity Everywhere

Ever have one of those grocery visits that turns into something profound? 

After reflecting on the previous rumination, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the ultimate point of it. Declaring for yourself as worthy of dignity. Then, I watched a documentary about Robert Downey Jr.’s father, Sr., which was the action of my ultimate point being played out. The dignity that was shown to a father who was very ill in his last months, weeks, then days of life, drove my thoughts about dignity even further into my soul. After watching the film, I made a post on my personal Instagram story that said this: 

Just watched Sr.


So moving.

Makes you evaluate who would be there to care in your final days of life. And whoever you

decide will be is more precious than anything on earth.

The rest?

Don’t waste another brain cell on how to make them value and love you.

And then…I wasted some brain cells. 

I reflected on the people that I truly believe only want a relationship with me that suits them. In other words, they’ll be around to receive my giving but once the giving is depleted, they’re out. If the relationship requires accountability or any reciprocation of giving, they’re out. If the relationship requires them to be less self-absorbed and considerate, they’re out. If they have to WORK on their own issues to have a better relationship with me (and others), they’re out. These are the people that love the idea of convenience in relationship. If it’s convenient for them to be with you, reach out to you, do something kind for you, then they’re your person. If it’s inconvenient? 

Nope. They’re out.

I’m sure that, as you’re reading this, you can quickly visualize a person or a hundred that fits this description. 

But I guess that would be wasting some brain cells. I did advise against it but bear with me on that point. I know that it seems very negative to highlight how much people can be hurtful but I’m starting to see it as a visual cue to create some distance from them. A waving red flag, if you will. It’s essential to insulate yourself (thanks babe, for that phrase) from this influence so as to
protect your own dignity. 

Before I meditated on and wrote this post, I had just experienced a few reminders of just how disposable I am to some. The “who’s” and “when’s” and “whyfors” are not important for this post except in the way that all of us discover this as we walk through life. We meet people. Some stay. Some must go. Some must change for the relationship to continue. I know. I mentioned a grocery store and we haven’t even gotten to that part yet… but I will… I promise.

The hardest part of recognizing that you deserve to be treated with dignity is the discontinuing, pausing, and taking space from the faux relationships that you’ve had thus far. And this will create grief in your heart. Not only will you grieve what you thought the relationship was, but you’ll also grieve the loss of that relationship dynamic if you continue remaining in contact with the person. It will be changed now, based on your own self-declarative worth. If you do decide to discontinue a relationship, you still will grieve the loss of that person’s presence in your space. I am told that it’s worth it. I’m still walking that part out. I’m not on the other side as I’m just freshly aware that I don’t have to accept being treated without dignity. If you are on the other side of that awareness and have made adjustments to reduce your exposure to people who were in a “self-beneficial” relationship with you, I’d love to know how you made it through the grief part.

After watching Sr. and making my post, I was still very observant of the post’s dignity theme leaking into real life. I went to the grocery store (told you I’d get to it!) to pick up a few things. It was packed and I started to get really grumpy because the shortest line was still ending on the furthermost part of a long soda aisle. I foolishly did not grab a cart, so I was holding all my items in my hands. Balancing 2 boxes of frozen treats on top of my crossed arms while my fingers gripped baggies of lunchmeat, I was mentally kicking myself for making poor decisions as a bead of sweat rolled down my back. A lady suddenly appeared behind me with a cart. She looked up the aisle, widened her eyes, and mumbled, “I still need gift cards.” I turned to her, and we shared an annoyed expression at the state of our mutual trapped condition. I offered to manage her cart and to pull it forward in the line when it moved so she could run up and get gift cards. She gratefully accepted my offer and ran ahead. The line advanced about 5 spots before she returned, saying, “I needed to get these cards for my children, grandchildren, and ex-husband.” 


I snorted, saying, “Well, THAT’S nice of you!”

She let me know that they have a great relationship now, but it wasn’t always that way. He had been horrible to her. Abusive even. Did terrible things to her that ultimately led her to struggle with mental illness. She lost her job. They divorced. She had to get on disability for her mental health concerns. Her life really unraveled while she wrestled with the question of her self-worth and value. Ultimately, she went to the darkest path of thinking and believed she had no worth at all.

Until the day she had a spiritual epiphany deep within her that she was more valuable than she could even declare for herself. It came from within her, this knowledge. It was inherent. She just KNEW. What followed was, I imagine, a series of changes in the expectations that she had for how she would be treated. She would be treated with dignity because she knew she was worthy of it. 

Now, her life is stable. She cherishes and spends time with her grown children, grandchildren, and yes, she has a good relationship with her ex-husband now. He helps her when she needs it, he’s kind to her. She has been able to get to a place of full forgiveness while he has made attempts to bring about restitution for the things that had happened between them. 

She declared herself worthy of dignity and the evidence of her stance became manifest thereafter. 

I couldn’t have asked for a better end to a week of soul diving about this topic. It was all around me: in my mind, spirit, body, in a movie, and in the form of a person who had no knowledge that I was processing this concept. The experience of this giant word “d-i-g-n-i-t-y” popping into my mind while lying in bed last week permeated the invisible particles of energy, inviting me to see the applications of the word in such a beautiful, magical way. 

It really was one of the most profound grocery trips I had ever gone on. 

I’m grateful.

RBT Study Topics: Professional Conduct (Part 2 of 2) – Psych Central,
Olivia Smith �� on Instagram: “wor·thy /ˈwərT͟Hē/ having or showing the …,

Angela Cross. I’m a deaf EGCC online student who enjoys pondering and writing about the ideals of a fulfilled life. I post those writings to my website ( so others can consider pondering them too! I enjoy teaching and doing yoga. I’ll read anything, especially if it’s about history. I’m trying to learn how to knit but think writing is a better pastime for me! Libraries are my happy place…So are oceans, so is a garden, so is my couch while binging a show. I guess I just do my best to make wherever I am a happy place!

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6