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“A Small Elegant Word Redux”

November 10th, 2018   •   Comments Off on “A Small Elegant Word Redux”   

Author’s Note: The fact that I have to still re-publish this column I wrote a number of years ago is heartbreaking and unacceptable. And proof has hard-core resistance to change among too many of us still is. OG


“A Small, Elegant Word”

Dignity. A word with few letters. On appearance not very large. But elegant. Succinct. With enormous reach when it’s authentic and honest and organic. Not used often enough in today’s world to describe someone’s character or attitude. And yet, it is a momentous, precious, rare word. Containing deep value. Representing deeper values.

Today, in light of all the events, from the most horrific and tragic to the amazing, astounding, “did-that-really-happen” moments of the past week, it’s emerged as the key word, the most accurate, deeply appropriate and somewhat surprising word in the rulings by the highest court in the land

Dignity. Human rights. They fit together. Reflect well upon one another.

Obama Care. Gay Marriage.

Dignity has been the pivotal word used in those decisions describing the reasoning and rationale for the fateful shift of the elements towards a more perfect union and a more compassionate, accepting world. It has also been appropriately used as a descriptor for the President’s presence and eloquent, heart-felt eulogy on behalf of the victims of the hateful, despicable and tragic shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the essence of the grace exhibited by those touched by the Charleston tragedy and who chose peace and healing over hatred and violence.

Dignity. A quality I associate with very few in my memory. Sidney Poitier. Elie Wiesel. Pope Francis. Rose Parks. Nelson Mandela. Interesting, isn’t it, that three of the five that come so readily to mind are African American?

I’ve also been struck by colleagues and clients alike this week with how many of our conversations have, at some point, turned to the hunger and need and desire to find a home, a town, a place that feels safe, that offers a safe haven from a world out there that seems to have gone mad, fallen over the edge, lost its way as we slowly, inexorably destroy this earth and all its precious living creatures – the very things that guarantee our own survival.

I’ve written for twenty years how the choices we make will determine our survival. How we have proven to be a scavenger-like creature, greedily gobbling up everything in sight, a species filled with self-destructive arrogance whose behavior suggests it’s totally in control and owns the planet; that it has a right – some one say a God-given right – to take and plunder whatever we find whenever we want it.

That’s not the definition of respect. Or dignity.

We can heed our better angels. We each possess one. We can live our lives with honor and respect and kindness, cherishing the gifts we have and taking care of others along the way. In that world, there is no place for guns or violence or war. For hunger or prejudice or abuse. We can create and build towns and homes where we can feel safe and our children can grow up with examples of respect and compassion and honor.

So if we’re capable of that; if we can do that, then please explain how we’ve become the gun and murder capitol of the world, how we’ve incarcerated more people for minor crimes that any civilized nation, and how our children are growing up in a world where childhood hunger still exists, where clean water is not available to all, and where violence continues in the name of God to kill and blunder and destroy.

I’d really like to know why. Because in the face of simple, elegant acts of dignity, in the respectful acknowledgment of establishing and granting basic human rights that should never have been denied to any person in the first place, regardless of who they are, where they come from and who and how they choose to love, all of that rage and hatred and violence and greed doesn’t make any sense at all to me.

What about you?


You can submit your questions and ethical dilemmas or book consulting appointments and private or group coaching sessions with Olive at [email protected]


Olive Gallagher is a leadership accountability consultant, productivity and life coach, ethicist, national speaker, columnist, and radio host of The Inner Bottom Line on


Hard cover, Kindle and audio versions of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life™, are available on Amazon.