Identity, value and pettiness


By DC Coetsee

Newspapers regularly report on court cases regarding terms and statements that are perceived as insulting, degrading or violating someone’s or groups’ dignity and rights and where it is expected that these must be corrected by court judgments or damages.

(This must be distinguished from what has always been considered defamation, defamation, dissemination of malicious or false “information” and intended to cause personal harm or disadvantage to someone.)

Does this “correction” really “correct” and “compensate” court judgments really the “damage” to the “victim”? Furthermore: does it really change the attitude, motivation and purpose of the “perpetrator”?

A better handling of this problem is necessary for a lasting solution.


Affront is not given, its taken.” This is a very true saying.

Why is it given? Because of prejudice, inferiority (you try to put others down to make yourself feel better), superiority (you have contempt or distaste for someone or a group), as revenge or retaliation. Also due to insensitivity towards others.

Why is it perceived or seen as an insult or violation of your dignity or rights? Because you link your identity and value to how others see and treat you. That’s why you want them to confirm it, because it makes you feel good. Such a person is oversensitive and sees terms and expressions that are often used innocently, as degrading, degrading and even as hate speech – and is therefore bitter, angry and unhappy. The other way around – depending on the words, attitudes and actions of others.

An antidote and lasting solution

If my identity and value is established outside of myself (or others) and I have internalized that reality, I do not use terms or actions to prove my “superiority”. Such actions and attitudes then do not fit in with the realization of my own identity and value – rather they do violence to it and make me feel like a failure afterwards.

The Bible beautifully describes the source of human identity and dignity. For example, Genesis 1:26-28 describes what each person’s inalienable identity and value is: he/she is an image bearer of God, is his representative, is male or female. Ephesians 2:10 and Psalm 139:13-17 say I am God’s handiwork (and He doesn’t mess around). John 1:12 and Romans 8:15-17 assure me that He has given me the right to be a child of God – even co-heir of Jesus Christ.

So I am guaranteed for time and eternity and not dependent on people to build or maintain it.

To “people pleasers” to try to be robs you of identity and value – and is an unattainable goal. What people call you is irrelevant, apart from criticism that points out where you think and act contrary to your God-given identity and value – and you accept this with humility and gratitude and don’t even think about litigation. You gratefully take note of comments that confirm your value and identity – but in their absence you live out your identity and value, because you know you exist only to please God.

  • DC Coetsee is a native of the Kalahari. He worked as a missionary for 40 years and is currently engaged in biblical counseling and training.