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Innate Dignity

Sunset over Fairhaven, Victoria, Australia

I began this blog journey by talking about story and that ultimately when we share story magic happens. I reflected that story just is; it is the articulation of who we are – it is neither right or wrong, better or best – story just is. I have spoken about the importance of each of us coming to the other and to their story as a guest; simply, slowly, humbly, open and ready to receive and give. I have then suggested that from our HOW of coming to the other and to their sacred story as guest – that in that space our primary task is to be profoundly present and that our presence says, “You are beautiful, you are special – just as you are!” From these reflections I have suggested that at this time on planet Earth the nature and scope of our presence is needing to be stretched to embrace all of life.

Underneath all of this is my profound belief in the innate dignity of all. I love the word innate. Innate means of its essence, of its core, of its nature. You and I and all of life have dignity and worth as central to our core, to our essence, to our very being – we are worth, we are love, we are lovable, we are gift, we simply just ARE and that is special. We don’t earn this worth and dignity – we just have it, are it and our call is to grow to more and more live and be aware of the worth intrinsic to us.

[Who is your life has treated people with a great sense of their dignity and worth? What was their secret?]

Now I am the first to acknowledge that what I have just written is ‘easier said than done!’ I can clearly remember going through my late 20’s and 30’s and having people affirm me thousands of times and yet none of this affirmation ‘stuck’. It was almost as if I had a filter in front of my face and when the affirmation hit it – something in me either deflected it, deleted it or rationalised it away. All I know is that my sense of self worth could not be given to me by others. Sure others helped and their belief in me and affection for me helped but ultimately I had to do the work; the heart work. Something in me had to firstly become aware of the filter and then clearly and deliberately choose to go beyond it.

Again – this is a journey and you don’t just make the choice and immediately it is a part of your framework for life – at least this was certainly not my experience. For me this has meant a hundred thousand small choices to believe in myself and believe in my self-worth day after day, on cloudy days, rainy days and sunny days. After some time those thousands of choices become an inner pattern – a heart set and mindset and then one day – something clicks, something changes and the filter begins to lose its power.

Being loved by another certainly helps on this journey. As much as any human being can – when another looks at you and totally and unconditionally loves you through thick and thin, in good times and in bad – their presence to you tells you that you are lovable. This is the power of presence. Presence can cut through the crap. Presence talks to the ‘gut’ to the intuition beyond the reasoned mind that wants to plays games and cloud all affirmation with shoulds and coulds and whens and maybes. But even the love of another human being can only go so far. There is still that space where you – at your deepest level – have to choose to believe in what THEY see, in who they love. Like all I am engaging with, this too is a journey. As Baz Luhrmann – the director of the movie ‘Strictly ballroom’ once said, “We do not live for our opening nights but the richness of the journey!”

[Who is your life has treated people with a great sense of their dignity and worth? What was their secret?]

The world of children teaches us so much. It is not rocket science to know that when a child is surrounded by love, by affection, by presence, by love centred boundaries they grow in a secure sense of self. It is like putting money into the bank of self esteem. When we engage with another and our engagement – our presence – says to them that they are lovable just as they are – we reach out and put a coin of self esteem in to their piggy bank of self. But of course we need to ensure that the entrance to that piggy bank is not clogged by trauma, by ego, by pain and more. And the time will come that after the obligatory teenage rebellion and other adventures to claim their own identity they too will have to make the the choice to believe in the piggy bank within.

I have had the privilege to know and journey with many people who have suffered significant childhood trauma or significant times of trauma in their adult lives. If there is one thing that I have learned it is that we are not prisoners of our pain. We are not trapped in our narratives. We are not powerless victims of our stories. Sure our story is sacred. Sure our story like all stories has its ups and downs, good and bad. But within all of this, in the midst of trauma and pain we still have the noble ability to choose life, to choose the ‘road less travelled’ – to choose to believe and honour self despite everything in our pathology shouting at us that we are a failure or victim or wrong. This is the energy and power of our innate dignity.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference!” Robert Frost

Again, easier said than done. Again, a challenge that can at times be lonely and painful. But without being trite to quote Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!”

And so it is an invitation to get up each day and to take THAT step. It is an invitation to get up each day and to believe – in small apparently insignificant ways – even though we do not feel like it.

The Universe wraps us in arms of love. We live in a universe of beauty and awe and it is unfolding and evolving into life and creativity and colour, interconnectedness and interdependence. At its core the Universe is benign – it is with us and for us for it is us and we are it.

Obviously this blog engages with the spiritual. One of the biggest challenges in my life has been to find ways to break down walls that put a false divide between spirit and life. All is one. Our spirituality is how and where, our when and our why of finding meaning and purpose and celebrating this, ritual-ising this and forming community around this. So central for me is a belief that at my deepest sense of self I am held lovingly and unconditionally.

Who or what holds me? Does it matter? I personally have no need for this ‘holding energy’ to have a name; it just is. Whether I call this energy love or life or God or Jesus or the essence or karma or spirit I do not believe ultimately matters. Sure, I walk this journey nurtured in my Catholic Christian tradition and that has its gift and like all spirituality has its pain and brokenness. But what is important is that I walk the journey into knowing – beyond the head to the heart and to the ‘gut’ that I am lovable – in my core, as I am and that this love in unconditional.

When we grow into this profound and intimate sense of our innate dignity – a journey and not a destination – then story and guest-ness and presence all make more and more sense. These words and the experiences that wrap them become our language of the heart that lead – to profound encounter – and that encounter is truly liberating.


Who is your life has treated people with a great sense of their dignity and worth? What was their secret?

What is the single step you may be invited to take today?

5 thoughts on “Innate Dignity”

  1. Thanks again Pricey. I think that at throughout our lives we need to be reminded of that innate dignity. Whether we think we are on top of the world or in the depths of despair the innate dignity that you remind us of is the place where we must centre ourselves, for our own sake and that of others close to us. Great work as usual. Regards Craig

    1. Thanks Craig – thanks for the response. That centring of self is something we are constantly called to if we are to be our best selves. Thinking of you on this Anzac Day – the Brothers’ community gathered in our driveway with candles at 6 am; very moving to look down the street and see people outside almost every house. Pricey

  2. Thanks Pricey
    When I think of innate dignity I think of the faces of people we encounter in many cases incidentally in our lives.

    Here in Darwin,as in many larger regional centres and cities come the faces of the local aboriginal people who live on the streets.
    They are in many instances broken, downtrodden and seemingly done with living in this life.
    Despite their circumstances many of them possess what I see as an innate dignity.
    They remain stoic and proud remnants of their own personal story and heritage.
    Though broken, they are strong because their innate dignity is very apparent.

    1. Thanks Rosie – wonderful to hear from you. Yes, despite so many difficulties and life circumstances – so many of them hold themselves proudly. Thanks for all that you do to help the people of your day know their deep personal worth and dignity. Pricey

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