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Our thought this week comes from Rabia of Basra (c 717-801 C.E.), the most popular and influential of female Islamic mystics.

As a girl in what is now Iraq, Rabia became separated from her parents (they may have died) and wandered homelessly until she was captured and sold to a famous brothel where she lived and worked for many years.

From an early age, Rabia was both physically and sexually abused, yet she sustained her sense of self through prayer, meditation and writing poetry. When she was about fifty, she gained her freedom and became a spiritual guide to many.

Here is one of her simpler, shorter poems.


 Live with dignity, women, live with dignity, men.

Few things will enhance

our beauty

as much.

Two things strike me. First, isn’t it astonishing that these words should come from a woman who had been through the things Rabia had been through?

Second, I like that connection between dignity and beauty. For one thing, it suggests that anyone can be beautiful!

But what does it mean to “live with dignity”?

According to the dictionary, “dignity” is “the quality of being worthy of esteem or honor, worthiness…proper pride and self-respect.”

Dignity is about the question: What is your true net worth? It’s not asking about your bank account, but about your basic, inherent worth as a human being.

I think it is undeniable that a human being is the most valuable thing in the world. There is simply nothing else that has quite the imagination, the thoughtfulness, the playfulness, the capacity for courage and compassion and delight and goodness and aliveness, the depth…that an ordinary human being has.

This is not about puffery or ego inflation. It’s about something deeper. Listen, you and I are valuable, unique human beings and that is an amazing, terrifically wonderful thing—no matter what has happened to us!

As the artist Salvador Dali said, “I don’t take drugs; I am drugs!”  He also said that when he was five years old, he wanted to be Pope, and then his ambitions went up!

To “live with dignity” is to seek to live out of that heightened awareness of our worth and the worth of others. It is to remember that I am worthy—and to bring that sense of worthiness to the things we say and do and the way we are each day.

But this is challenging, because there are so many things that happen in life that erode our sense of worth, our “proper pride and self-respect.”

So we may need to frequently remind ourselves: You’re worth more than all that has happened to you. You’re worth more than your successes and your failures. You’re worth more than your salary or education might indicate. You’re worth more than your wounds or your gifts. And you’re even worth more than you look like you are!

Maybe we need to put a sticker on our bathroom mirror that says: Objects in mirror are worth a lot more than they appear!

To “live with dignity”, to affirm our worth and the worth of each person—especially in these difficult times—that’s a beauty enhancement program we can all benefit from. And it’s free!