Understand Your Dignity…

“Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing…God chose us in him before the world began…He predestined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ, such was his will and pleasure…In him and through his blood, we have been redeemed, and our sins forgiven, so immensely generous is God’s favor to us…”

Ephesians 1:3-8 (NAB version)

If we judge the value of something by the magnitude of its cost, what must we conclude about our value, despite our broken sinfulness?

God, from before time and before creation – from all eternity – deemed us worth the ultimate price. By sending His Son into the world to take on our frail humanity – being born into poverty and obscurity, and dying an unjust, excruciating and shameful death on our behalf – God clearly demonstrated to us how valuable we are to Him, and how serious He is about offering us eternal life with Him.

Dignity. The word is from the Latin root for “worthy”: it means valued, respected, honored. This is how God sees us.

Remember the father of the Prodigal? (see Luke 15). He recognized his son afar off despite how filthy and degraded the young man was, coming out of the pigpen. He immediately restored his dignity as a son, giving him the robe and ring, and even throwing a party to celebrate his return. How often do we lose sight of the truth of how valuable we are to God? With what dignity has He made us, formed as we are in His likeness, and bought with such a price as the precious blood of Jesus?

Sometimes, we fall into the bad habit of believing our negative thoughts about ourselves. We rehearse our failures and shortcomings. We think of ourselves as “failures” or “losers”. We replay negative experiences with others, or hurtful words. In our minds, we allow a moment in time the power to label us forever. And we can sometimes end up believing that these negative thoughts are telling us the whole truth about ourselves. That can lead to feelings of desperation, to self-destructive actions, to impulsive, self-demeaning decisions which we later regret.

We sell ourselves short; we give ourselves away cheaply, for false honors, quick “solutions”, or momentary, fleeting pleasures. We can even become so consumed with trying to be or become “good enough” in the eyes of others that we lose any sense of our own identity.

God does not love us because we are good; He loves us because He is good. It is His love that makes us worthy. And that love is a free gift, flowing from His merciful Heart, purchased for us by the price of Jesus’ life. His indignity allows our dignity to be restored.

It can take a while before we really “get” this truth down deep in our hearts: much prayer, regular repentance, and much practice of forgiveness of others who have wounded us is required. But God smiles on these efforts; He grants us great graces when we keep at it.

When the truth of God’s free, gratuitous love in Christ Jesus genuinely takes root in us and grows, we are liberated from serving false idols which cannot give us real life. We’re more able to act in keeping with our true dignity, choosing what is truly good and loving and what flows from God’s life in us. Like the Prodigal, we can stop wasting our inheritance and come home.