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May 4, 2019

Source of Human Dignity: Money? Praise? (EP.127)

Source of Human Dignity: Money? Praise? (EP.127)
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Dignity, like self-esteem, cannot be conferred; it must come from within.

There is a lot of talk from some quarters supporting giving people what they want in areas like healthcare, education and housing, as well as in cash, with a growing call for a guaranteed income. The reasons given include these benefits being “human rights” and that conferring these benefits will allow the recipients to live in “dignity.” The truth: like a feeling of accomplishment, dignity cannot be granted, it can only be earned.

That’s the topic of today’s 10-minute podcast.


There is an increasing amount of conversation–and action–around the subject of providing everything from free housing, free higher education and free healthcare to a universal income (free money) so that the recipients can “live in dignity.” Is having money a source of dignity? Henry VIII had vast wealth, and was by no measure dignified. Louis XIV, the wealthiest man on earth at the time, was an arrogant, out-of-touch, absolute dictator. Gandhi was, quite literally, dirt poor, yet projected a quiet and powerful dignity. As did Mother Teresa. And who would make the argument that Mark Cuban is more dignified thanLuther Harris?

We can dismiss the notion that having money bestows dignity; it simply does not. That would also mean that giving people money would also not confer any type of dignity.

I hear the argument being made that being poor to the point where one is unable to feed or house themselves would necessarily be undignified. There is a natural temptation to accept that position, but it really is just the flipside of the money equals dignity argument we disproved moments ago. Let’s dig a little deeper. The lesson I learned growing up was, “We may be poor, but we can always afford soap.” The idea was that maybe your parents could afford only one pair of shoes and two school outfits for the coming year, but they would keep the clothes clean for you and you could clean your own shoes. The dignity here was in doing your absolute best with what you had. Pride and dignity came from being clean, even if you were wearing worn clothes that were not new even when your older siblings wore them.

Another part of the ethic of the times was the dignity that came from not accepting welfare, and a sense of needing to “pay back what you took” if welfare was needed as a last resort. Now we are being told that welfare, money from taxpayers, is a human right and confers dignity. It appears that we are trying to move past even the very recent, “you deserve it because you are a victim” position, to “you deserve it because you are alive.”

Money and dignity are connected: The connection is that dignity comes from working hard to earn it. You have heard the expression that, “Money is the root of all evil.” That’s not at all correct. The original quote is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” This is a key distinction. Let’s make another vital distinction: It is not money that confers dignity, it is doing your absolute best to earn it that does. Money confers the ability to buy things; doing your best confers dignity. John Wooden, three-time collegiate basketball champion as a player, a professional player, and the best college coach of all time, said, “Focus on effort, not winning. Winning is a byproduct of effort.” He consistently emphasized theimportance of doing your best over winning. Here’s another, “Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” Coach Wooden is correct in saying that dignity comes from the courage to do your best, whether you are succeeding or failing at that moment.

Telling people that giving them money gives them dignity does two terrible things:

  1. It robs them of learning that working for that cash is the only money-connected path to dignity and
  2. The recipients will develop a vague but powerful and deep-seated emptiness where that deeply satisfying earned dignity feeling should be. What will they fill that emptiness with? Nothing good.

Today’s Key Points:

  1. Like a feeling of accomplishment, dignity cannot be granted, it can only be earned.
  2. Whenever at all possible, and it almost always is, we should treat each other with dignity. The key here is that the people treating others with dignity are honoring themselves, casting dignity upon themselves, not bestowing dignity on the other person. Dignity cannot be granted, it can only be earned.

Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
  2. Be YourBrother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.

Paraphrasing St. Francis, “Always teach personal responsibility, and when you must, use words.” Practicing personal responsibility is hard. As is anything worthwhile. After all,Life is Hard. But more than worth doing well. Paraphrasing Will Luden, teaching through example is a powerful, and often thankless, way of being yourBrother’s Keeper. Do it anyway.

We often fail–I often fail–and our brothers and sisters often fail. That’s why we are called to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Encourage them, love them; hold them accountable when necessary, love them; teach them, love them. Note where the emphasis is. Speaking of teaching, I invite you to check out,“Give A Man A Fish…”

And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.

If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.

The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.

Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”

  • Read the blogs and/or listen to the podcasts.
  • Comment in the blogs. Let others know that you are thinking.
  • Subscribe and recommend that others subscribe as well.
  • Attach links from blogs into your social media feeds. Share your thoughts about the link.
  • From time-to-time, attach links to blogs in emails that mention related subjects. Or just send the links to family and friends.

Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.

Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.

And visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.

Links and References

Life is Hard

Brother’s Keeper

Give a Man a Fish


As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me onTwitter,Facebook, andLinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device throughApple Podcasts,Google, orStitcher.

Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.

Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.