Dignity with Donna Hicks

Program 187 • 29 mins


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A conflict mediator in world hotspots from Israel-Palestine to Northern Ireland to Sri Lanka, Donna Hicks explains the importance of honoring your opponent’s dignity and of maintaining your own. She recounts dialogues in which bitterly opposed parties are each asked to describe incidents in which they feel their own dignity has been “violated” by the other side. But then the parties are asked to reveal occasions when they have offended others. This alters the dynamics of disagreement and can create an opening in which greater empathy and mutual understanding may develop. Hicks was drawn to this delicate peacemaking work in part based on her upbringing in a quarrelsome and troubled home, from which she emerged with a shame-based identity. Now affiliated with Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, she has come to see that treating others with decency and maintaining one’s own dignity are powerful healing tools for conflicts among people and for curing our internal conflicts. She also discusses “temptations” to conflict that we can consciously avoid if we choose

We can have an injury to our dignity, it can be trampled upon, it can be wounded. But it can’t be taken away from us. It can’t be stripped out of us—and this is what Nelson Mandela has taught us—that there is a distinction about needing to care for the wounds to our dignity. We can definitely have it wounded, but it is never taken away because it’s part of our DNA. It’s the substance of our inner world. You know, we were all born with dignity, but we weren’t all born knowing how to act like it.”

—Donna Hicks, Conflict resolution specialist and author of Dignity


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