Worthiness sounds and feels like an old fashioned word. Something that doesn’t really apply to me anymore. Up there with chivalry, carrying a handkerchief or wrapping table legs for fear they might offend.
My definition is quite broad, it applies to the inherent value of all living creatures, who deserve to feel worthy and be treated that way by others.
It is of course a wonderful ideal, but how does it play out in real life?
Acknowledging someone else’s worthiness, requires me to be openhearted and present with them in the moment. I must set aside my distractions and engage with them. I might smile, make eye contact, but I surely listen and respond. I respect their autonomy and encourage self determination. These ideas are codified in an amazing book by David Richo called, How to Be An Adult in Relationships. He boils it down to what he calls “the Five A’s”. They include:
- acceptance and
I love to play with these ideas and apply them to the people I am close to. Did I show them the five A’s today? Did they know it?
There is another “A” I would add to the mix. Dan Siegel is a brain researcher, and the author of Parenting from Inside Out. He describes attunement and the key role it plays in human brain development. As an example, if my child expresses hunger, it is not enough to mirror their feelings and say, “Yes, I am hungry too.” Attunement requires that I am changed by my interactions with someone else. “Ah, you’re hungry, let’s make some grilled cheese sandwiches!”
To treat others in these simple and respectful ways, demonstrates that we believe they are worthy. It makes them feel good and reinforces positive relationships. In the big scheme of things, it makes the world a better place. It is virtually impossible to denigrate and scream at someone we interact with in this fashion. And just as importantly, it is also good for us. Positive relationships make us healthier, and allow us to fight off disease better. They cause our brains to form robust new pathways, no matter how old we are to allow us to lead more integrated and complex lives. Treating others as worthy, means that we believe we are worthy too.