Lets take an example from the life of Jesus. The story comes from Luke 19:1-10
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.' "
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Zacchaeus was a short man and not one who found favour among his own people. He collected tax on behalf of the oppressive Roman regime. As if that was not bad enough, he also cheated people (verse 8). It is no surprise the people were unhappy with Jesus' seemingly rash decision to visit Zacchaeus house (verse 7).
Yet Jesus was looking at who the man was and not what he did. Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham (verse 9). Admittedly, he was not conducting himself in a suitable manner but his heart was in the right place.
Dignity played an important part in Jesus' relationship with Zacchaeus. For relationships among close people to work, each party must allow the other to maintain their dignity.
Giving people dignity means recognising them (verse 7). Jesus could have walked pass the tree and ignored Zacchaeus. Stopping and summoning Zacchaeus down showed that Jesus cared. Jesus had a heart for Zacchaeus. Jesus was more concerned about Zacchaeus as a person than he was about the taxes Zacchaeus had been embezzling. The biggest mistake we can make in any relationship is ignoring the person and only recognising their faults.
Have you lost sight of the most important thing in your relationship with those close to you? It is not the high grades the person is (or is not) getting at school, nor is it the amount of money brought home at the end of the week or month that matters most. A person's worth should be determined by the truth that they are created in God's image. Jesus recognised Zacchaeus as a child of Abraham. We too should cherish those close to us as people made in God's image and precious.
Giving people dignity means allowing them to have a voice (verse 8). If you are always shouting people down - because you have a louder voice; or dominating the discussion - because you are more eloquent, you will eventually end up taking away the other person's self worth as an individual. Denying a person the dignity to express him or herself results in bringing out the worst conduct from that person. This applies to adults, children or even work colleagues.
Giving people dignity means allowing them to make mistakes without bringing their faults to remembrance at the slightest opportunity. There were a lot of things Jesus could have blamed Zacchaeus for. But rather Jesus choose to give him the dignity his fellow country people had denied him (verse 7). This immediately brought a response in the heart of Zacchaeus (verse 6).
Jesus gave Zacchaeus room to move. Jesus' action released Zacchaeus from the bondage of his past mistakes. Jesus showed Zacchaeus that there was hope for him. When we deny people dignity we give them no reason to change their conduct. If you make a person feel sub human the person will act like one.
Giving people dignity means allowing them space. Space to spend his or her own money without having to give a detailed account to you, especially when the person involved is an adult. Space means allowing them to talk to friends on the phone or spend time in their room alone, without your prying ears and eyes.
Most importantly, giving people dignity means making a heart change. Whether you are a Pastor, boss at work, parent at home or 'life and soul' of your party of friends - giving people dignity means not placing anything above the person. Such as the church mission or project, the company profit, family pride or the admiration of your friends. If you sacrifice the dignity of a person in order to obtain any of the latter things you will isolate the person, destroy a relationship and hurt the heart of God.
When you use people purely as stepping stones to fulfil your ambitions you take away their dignity and decrease yours in the process.
Remember Jesus was passing through Jericho (verse 1), but he still had time for Zacchaeus. He went to Zacchaeus house not because of what he could get from him but because of the regard he had for him.
Jesus visit gave Zacchaeus esteem.
Now that is how you give people dignity. It comes from the heart and cannot be faked.
Remember: human beings operate best in an environment that allows them to walk in the dignity God has given them.