The Journey series
Honor and Respect
Last week I wrote, “All people are created with equal dignity. God creates each and every human as and when they were born because they are exactly who His universe needs at the time. What right does any human have to question God’s judgement?” Why only humans? Why not extend dignity to all things in the universe? Short answer? We should.
What is dignity? The Oxford Dictionary defines dignity as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” According to the same source, honor is “adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct” and respect is “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
How, then, do we show honor or respect to a rock, for example? We honor a rock when we allow it to stay where it is and we don’t expect it to up and fly away. We respect a rock when we remove our toes from its trajectory as it falls to the ground. We also respect a rock when we polish it to reveal its pleasing pattern of hues and place it atop a stack of papers so the papers don’t up and fly away in a stiff breeze.
“Is it honorable to polish a rock?” one might ask. “It doesn’t seem to be part of a rock’s ‘conventional standard of conduct’ to be shiny. That is something that enhances a particular attribute of the rock for our benefit; not the rock’s.”
I suggest that to honor something is to credit it for what it is whilst to respect it is to credit it for its potential. We have not changed the rock’s essence by polishing it, it is still a rock. Polishing it merely realized its potential for greater beauty. Nothing can reach its potential without change.
“I see,” you say, “but what of grinding the rock up to extract its gold? Now you have destroyed the rock. Where once there were many rocks, now there is a hill of tailings and another of slag for the sake of a vault filled with gold.”
There’s the rub. Our universe is not static and change involves interaction. Inevitably, some things suffer to benefit others. Some of this is essential, some optional, and some frivolous. Some disruption is voluntary and some not. How much and for what purpose should one part of God’s creation impact another part? I will begin that examination next week.
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Peter T Elliott