I had a friend email me this Bono interview video earlier today. I gotta say I love the video and the point about humility that he makes at the end. I am always impressed by the depth of Bono's words and yet since I was asked for a response to the dignity and humility point I tried to consider the content and here is my response.
I think Bono uses the term dignity in a strange way but maybe this highlights the importance of defining terms that we use, especially if they influence the ways we do relationships and mission. Dignity isn't about coolness and it isn't vain at all. The ways that we use the term 'undignified' tend to betray what we actually mean by dignity. We might call the naked bloody baby or the dying old man that craps on himself undignified but, as he pointed out, these are central (or endcaps) to the human experience. Dignity is a term used to speak of something that has inalienable rights or value. A human has dignity, theologically, because they are created in the image of God. Jesus, who was that image humbled himself to death. Humility is, therefore, a central quality of dignity. Humility can be established on the realization that our value as a human is secure and therefore does not need to be tended to. If we crap on ourselves or fail horribly we are still humans with value and have dignity.
Dignity is often used to describe something that we deserve as though it is bestowed on us. This use isn't as accurate but makes sense as it is used to refer to oppression and other such forces the strip men of there dignity or freedom and responsibility as humans. Dignity is inalienable but men can be caged, enslaved and imprisoned in conditions that deny their humanity and rights. It is then that we must fight and stand with those men to demand dignity as something they deserve.
For those who live in such conditions, as Viktor Frankl has written at length about after his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, you are still free to determine how you will stand within conditions that you are not free to change. You are still a responsible human being with dignity and freedom even when trapped in the teeth of the wheels of oppression. Dignity has nothing to do with the condition, or state, in which we live but has everything to do with the posture and state of being with which we exist in our conditions.
Dignity is not something we give to others as much as it is something in them that we are calling out. Jesus' life was the life which revealed to all of us what we essentially ought to be. The dignity and humanity with which he lived and died (in the most 'undignified' way) is a beacon calling us to again bear that image with which we were created. Dignity is both something that we have and to which we are called. It is a gift and something we deserve. Dignity is the rock on which our humilty can stand.