A Personalist Credo

The Human Person as the Imago Dei

I am a person:

unique, precious and unrepeatable in worth.
I also inhabit a world of other human persons who are
unique, precious and unrepeatable in worth.
As a person, I expect to be treated as a subject,
not an object.
I am an end in myself,
not merely a means to someone else’s end.
I will not allow myself to be used;
nor will I tolerate abuse.
I will respect my body
as well as the bodies of other human persons.
I will not undermine the dignity of another human being;
because in doing so, I undermine my own dignity.
I will not label others in dehumanizing terms,
because persons are infinitely more
than all labels, classifications or categories.
Except in the context of appropriate humor,
I will not take others “lightly,”
negating their inestimable value as human persons.
I will not reduce my humanity to a color.
Hence, I am not, first, a white person.
Rather, I am a person who is white.
Nor will I reduce my humanity to a function.
Hence, I am not, first, a teacher.
Rather, I am a person who teaches.
Therefore, I am valuable, first and foremost,
because of who I am, not what I do.
I am someone, not something;
a “who,” not a “what;”
begotten, not made.

I am a person.

30 Minute Meditations on Being Human from the Life and Writings of Viktor Frankl, Day 8: Ascribing Dignity to Every Human Being

Viktor Frankl

Lesson for the Day: Dignity (respect) is to be ascribed to all human beings, even those who, through committing evil acts, don’t deserve it.

“‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ ‘He is a reed,’ said Pascal, ‘but a reed which thinks!’ And it is in this thinking, this consciousness, this responsibility that constitute the dignity of man, the dignity of each individual human being. And it is always to be ascribed to the individual person whether he preserves this dignity or tarnishes it. Whereas the first behavior is personal merit, the second constitutes personal guilt.”

Source: Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism: Selected Papers on Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1967), pp. 110-111.

“Show Proper Respect to Everyone”

Respecting Others

The Ultimate Reason for Respect

The apostle Peter tells newly converted Christians, living in a hostile Roman community of the first century: “Show proper respect to everyone” (I Peter 2:17a, NIV). Ultimately, the reason believers are to respect every human being is that he or she a sacred icon, being made in the image of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27).

Integrally related to respecting every human being is respecting God. In fact, Peter tells believers to “fear God” (I Peter 2:17c, NIV). In other words, an ultimate respect for the God the Creator often results in a respect for God’s creatures, specifically, human beings. That is to say, a proper view of God (theology) helps to develop in believers a proper view of other human beings (anthropology). Not only that, but a proper view of God also shapes the way Christians should treat others (ethics).

No Inferior Human Beings

Because all human beings are made in the image of God, they share in the same, common nature, namely, a human nature. Because all humans, ultimately, originate from a common source, namely, God, then there are no inferior humans. They are fully and equally members of the same human race, fully and equally possessing the value or dignity of a human being – regardless of their race, religion, color, nationality, language and gender.

Degrees of Love

Peter admits that there are degrees of love, just as there are degrees of honor. He tells Christians to “love the family of believers” (I Peter 2:17c, NIV). Believers, then, are to have a natural, general love for humanity, all human beings, and a special, particular love for redeemed humanity, the spiritual family of God, their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Degrees of Respect

Peter instructs his readers to “honor the emperor” (I Peter 2:17d, NIV). Perhaps a better translation than “emperor” is “king” (KJV). The same Greek word (τιμάω) for respecting everyone, at the beginning of verse 17, is applied to honoring the emperor or king, which, at that time, was Nero.

Peter presupposes that there are practical degrees of honor, which are based on a person’s excellence or achievements and the kind of office he or she may hold. For example, the highest honor should be given to the Being that has the highest worth or dignity, such as God. There are also other kinds of honor, which are due to human beings. For instance, I honor a judge or the President of the United States, because of the high offices he or she holds, even if I do not agree, on moral grounds, with the kind of person he or she may be.

Respecting the Unrespectable

Sacred Scripture says that Jesus Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all people” (I Timothy 2:6, NIV). There is, then, something redeemable about all human beings, (i.e., the image of God in the human person), even the most unlikable, undesirable, unlovely, disgusting, vile ones. Of course, such people are not to be respected, say, for the crimes they may commit. Rather, they are to be respected for God’s sake, sending his Son to die on the cross for their sins.

Summary and Conclusion

Therefore, “Show proper respect to everyone,” as hard as that may be and even when he or she, because of committing some evil act, is not worthy, on moral grounds, of respect. Like the Christian principle of “Love the sinner, while hating the sin,” honor the trace of good in him or her, the divine image, while not honoring the evil in his or her life.

Of course, what I am writing about, in many cases, is hard to practice, just as it was for the first century Christians, when they first read Peter’s message. However, it is an achievable, humanizing ideal, which, when practiced, promotes a more humane culture, a culture of respect and a “civilization of love.”

A Credo for Persons That are Elderly

Couple Playing Dominoes At Day Care Centre
Enjoying Life

I am a person that is elderly,

not an elderly person.

I am not “an old man”;

rather, I am man that is old.

My value is not reducible to my age,

but to being a person.

I am a person,

even when I can no longer perform the functions

I did in earlier years.

My dignity consists in whom I am,

not merely in what I do.

My vision, hearing and strength will decline with age,

but my “I” will not decline with them.

My humanity will never decline.

I am and will always remain a person.