It is worth asking ourselves whether what we’re about to say or do is dignified or not. If it isn’t, we probably shouldn’t say or do it. Acting without dignity is not a sign of authenticity and realness. It’s a lack of respect and unwillingness to control our instinctual selves. We must pursue dignity.
Information dumping about oneself is completely inappropriate.
I recently saw a video a friend of mine posted on Facebook, which really touched a nerve within me, which is why I’m recording this podcast and possibly the next as well. And he titled the video, Kids and swear words, or something to that effect. And amongst the many things he said in the few minutes he was talking was questioning, essentially, whether there’s anything wrong with curse words and with the fact that kids hear them and use them.
And the entire tone of the video, at least as I heard it, was justifying and defending, which already says that there’s a problem. And he said things like, funny how we try to protect our kids from curse words. What are we protecting them from? At the end of the day, it’s just a word. And as long as you don’t put someone down, there is nothing wrong with it because it’s the energy behind the words, not the words themselves. And then he said that 99 percent of the population curses anyway, so why not teach our kids how to use them properly.
There are many things to be said about this but I’m going to focus on one angle in today’s podcast and that is a simple question we can ask ourselves, would you describe yourself as a dignified person? When I looked up the translation of the word dignity, one of the first words that came up was a formal reserve, which essentially means that we reserve or hold back from doing certain things. And when we hold back from doing those things, then we develop dignity. And I think this has been a lost pursuit in more modern times, the pursuit to be a dignified person. There are laws, I was just studying in a class with a group of people, that we have in Judaism regarding table manners. And these are actually part of the Code of Jewish Law. So amongst all of the rituals that are spoken about in the Code of Jewish Law, it speaks about table manners, even though it would seem to not be anything religious but just very human, and instructions on how to actually conduct ourselves by a table in a dignified way, such as not leaving wet bread on the table because that can be repulsive and it can ruin other people’s appetites. Not throwing bread to someone else because that is simply undignified. Not to gaze at someone else when they’re eating. Not to offer someone a drink from a cup that you drank from because that may be repulsive to them and you would be putting them in a position where it may be hard for them to say no. Or eating while walking down the street, which the Code of Jewish Law tells us not to do because that is not dignified. When you want to eat, sit down in one place and then eat.
All of these laws do not sound religious at all, they are simply instructions on how to conduct ourselves with dignity. And that’s because Judaism sees dignity as a pursuit which is required from every single human being. That’s what makes us healthy, functional people when we have self‑respect to understand that there needs to be a restraint from things that are widely commonly understood not to be so refined. And that’s how we develop a character of refinement. And refinement and dignity is a pursuit that we all need to put effort into pursuing.
So it means being more proper and being less convenient. Meaning, that very often the crass and the crude thing or the blunt behavior is the more convenient thing to do. However, it’s not always the dignified thing to do. It’s not the proper thing to do. And so we need to use a formal reserve, and that is to reserve ourselves from doing certain things.
There’s a tendency today, especially with social media, for people to share everything about themselves, to be open. And people see this as a form of being very honest and being real and being authentic. And the reality is that if we do not have any form of reservation with what we share with other people, then very often we are not being authentic, honest and real, we are actually being very crass, out of place and very inappropriate. Because very often what we’re sharing, if shared in an environment or to people who that should not be shared with, makes it extremely inappropriate and actually makes everyone around that person very uncomfortable. And that’s why information dumping about oneself is completely inappropriate and, generally speaking, people who are unhealthy do that.
When we share the proper information with the proper people, that can be authentic, that can be real, that can be honest. But just dumping everything and anything about ourselves or saying it in any way that we wish to say it, is inappropriate. In the same way that people feel that you know, when I just use any language to speak without restraint, I’m just being real about myself. That is not real. Exposing our animalistic self, exposing every part of our inner self-doesn’t make us real. It just exposes the ‑‑ what I’m referring to as animalistic or ugly side that every one of us has because we are human physical beings that have desires for things which are sometimes inappropriate.
It’s not appropriate to share those things all the time. It is appropriate, in the right context, in dealing with our struggle with those things to share them with a contained group of people or an individual.
And when we just throw any words around, we are demonstrating a lack of respect and a lack of boundaries for other people. Vulnerability is not about dumping everything about yourself to others. Vulnerability is defining the right people that can hear what we’re going to say properly and help us with whatever it is that we’re sharing. And we share it with those people.
So all of this boils down to the difference between my right to say whatever I want, which is a very widespread culture today, that my rights trump anything else, versus my obligation to respect the environment and the people around me. Do I realize that my obligations are far more important than my rights? If I am the center of the universe, rights take precedence; if I realize that I am here to serve the universe, obligation takes precedent. And when a person realizes that they were put here by God for a purpose, they understand that they have obligations in every single environment we are in. And if we have those obligations, we have to ask ourselves, is this appropriate in this environment in front of these people? And if the answer is no, we then have to exercise formal reserve, demonstrate dignity and not share, say or do whatever it is that we may be inclined for whatever reason to say, share or do. We need to return the value of dignity to ourselves and we will also discover that people follow people with dignity. Because people with dignity immediately stand out in a crowd. And when we have that level of appropriateness, then we can actually advance dignity not only within ourselves but by demonstrating it to all of those around us.