Human Rights and the Value of a Person


(Human Rights image from Electronic Frontiers Australia website)

What are we worth?

If we discount the obvious things like wealth, good looks and intelligence, how can we measure our value? I don’t know about you, but I’ve known some wealthy, good looking and clever individuals for whom ‘worthy’ wouldn’t be the first adjective that comes to mind.

On the other hand, does our worth depend on how helpful we are? How ‘nice’ we are? How influential we are? How selfless we are? How committed we are to causes? How gently assertive we are? How ‘together’ we are? How much fun we are to be with? How sporty we are? How socially adept we are? . . .
I really hope, with crossed fingers and toes, that not too many of the above count for much in the value ratings. If they did, I am pretty sure I would be in some difficulty.

Despite this, I believe I am worthwhile and valuable (as are you). But I don’t believe any of that value comes from personal qualities which we all have in different combinations. I have learned not to fret at my many and varied shortcomings, obvious as they are to myself and those around me. As unfortunate as some of them undoubtedly are, I don’t believe they are relevant when it comes to determining my value in the scheme of things, any more than yours are to your value.

I think we need to look elsewhere.


(Animal Legal Defence Fund website)

You see I believe you and I have innate value as human beings. Yes I think dogs and cats and other animals (whales, monkeys, dolphins, polar bears and pandas) have their own value too. But that’s another matter – I shouldn’t stray off topic!
You and I have innate value and so I believe we should show each other kindness and consideration in our dealings. We should care about each other and protect each other when necessary. We should not stand back and allow ourselves or others to be exploited, abused or otherwise harmed.

So far so good. Many of these ‘shoulds’ are compatible with contemporary “Human Rights” legislation and to the extent that they are, I applaud the preoccupation of our legislators and political commentators with such things. The thing is, human rights can be, and sometimes unfortunately have been, invoked selectively to bring about their own injustice. They can be, and sometimes have been, used as a vehicle of ideological warfare.

Mostly however, I believe our current sensitivity to “Human Rights” is a force for good. It’s just I fear we might be being encouraged to think these “Rights” are a modern creation; the product of “progressive” thinking; of the United Nations Charter of 1948 for example.

I believe the value of a human being is not beholden to a United Nations decree, or any other political decree for that matter. Our human “Rights” are not a gift from our political masters and betters. They are intrinsic. They exist because we exist. They exist because we are who we are.

I am, as you may know if you have read my other blog entries, a Christian. Not a ‘crazy’ one; not a self righteous one; not one who is arrogant enough to think I own all the answers; but unashamedly a Christian. A bruised and battered Christian but a Christian nonetheless. I believe God created each one of us with great care and love, and regards each one of us as worthy of his time and effort. That is the source and the guarantee of my value (and yours) in the scheme of things.

Because, as a Christian, I believe that every human is worthwhile, I would like to see us temper our thinking on “Human Rights” with the additional perspective of “Human Responsibilities”. You see, without accompanying human “Responsibilities” I don’t think there can be effective human “Rights”.

While people might be understandably keen to exercise their human rights, unless their fellows accept their own human responsibilities, the exercise of those rights will always be futile. There is, after all, a difference between having a law and seeing it observed.

I think we do ourselves a disservice as a society by promoting rights without responsibilities. It saddens me when I come across individuals and organisations who “know their rights”, but ignore their responsibilities. I also think we do ourselves a disservice by not realising our innate value as humans; as special creations, each one of us.

You may not see things the way I do; that humans have rights and dignity because they are innately valuable as created beings; that human rights do not exist in isolation. You may see human rights as having come into existence through legislation or through a United Nations protocol. Be that as it may. If you are a believer in human rights I am happy to claim you as a fellow traveller on the road.

Peace and blessings to you.




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