Thoughts on Human Dignity and the Power of Words

I’ve recently been writing a long-due and much-needed newsletter sharing all that I was up to in the year 2012. As I’ve been remembering everything that happened, it has once again brought to mind things that I learned and processed over that period of time.

One of these topics is human dignity and the power of words.

When talking with people about some of my experiences interacting with extreme poverty, as I had some opportunity to do in Thailand, I have used the word “slums” in order to provide a clear picture of the conditions these people were living in. However, as I was working alongside longterm missionaries in Bangkok, I loved how they referred to these places they were working in.

These missionaries understood the power of words—the power in names. Rather than using the word “slums”, which calls to mind destitution and hopelessness, when speaking to the residents they simply called these places “communities”—a place people call “home”, a place where life and hope may be found.

It is amazing how much this simple word choice can uphold and even increase the dignity of the people living there. After all, regardless of the conditions they are living in, they are people just like the rest of us, and these places are their homes where they live full lives. No, these places where they live, these communities are far from ideal. Yes, they have very few things of monetary value. Yes, they have great need. Yes, we seek and are commanded to help them. But that does not devalue who they are as a person and their innate gifts.

As people created by God, they have dignity and they are invaluable. God has given them strengths and resources within themselves. Their lives are important. Slums are not their identity, nor their lot in life. And if they remember this, they may have hope.

These are not completed thoughts, but they are something I have been processing this past year, and again recently.

And that is all. 🙂

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