The consideration of dignity which in other words may be called self-respect is not something which can be left out when considering the art of personality. But what is it and how may this principle be practised? The answer is that all manner of light-heartedness and the tendency to frivolity must be rooted out from the nature in order to hold that dignity which is precious to one. The one who does not care for it does not need to take trouble about it. It is only for the one who sees something valuable in self-respect. A person with self-respect will be respected by others, even regardless of his power, possessions, position or rank; in every position or situation in life that person will command respect.
There arises a question: has light-heartedness then any place in life or is it not necessary at all? All is necessary, but everything has its time. Dignity is not in making a long face, respect is not in knitting cross brows; in frowning or stiffening the body one does not show honour. Dignity is not in being sad or depressed. It is apportioning one's activities to their proper time. There are times for laughter, there are times for seriousness. When a person is laughing all the time, his laughter loses its power. The person who is always light-hearted does not command that weight in society which is necessary. Besides, light-heartedness often makes man offend others without meaning to do so. The one who has no respect for himself has no respect for others. He may think for the moment that he is regardless of conventionalities and free in his expression and feeling, but he does not know that it makes him as light as a scrap of paper moving hither and thither in space, blown by the wind.
Life is a sea, and the further in the sea one travels, the heavier the ship one needs. So for a wise man, to make his life in this sea, a certain amount of weight is required which gives balance to the personality. Wisdom gives that weight, its absence is the mark of foolishness. The pitcher full of water is heavy. It is the absence of water in the pitcher which makes it light, as a man without wisdom is light-hearted.
The more one studies and understands the art of personality, the more one finds that it is the ennobling of the character which is going forward towards the purpose of creation. All the different virtues, refined manners and beautiful qualities are all the outcome of the nobleness of character. But what is nobleness of character? It is the wide outlook.
Question : Sometimes dignity of position is at variance with kindness of disposition. Which should one follow? For instance, a king on his throne or a judge in court may wish to give his comfortable place to a poor or weak person, and yet his environment may wish him to keep his seat of honour.
Answer : When a person is on duty it is better to follow the dignity of his position. For instance, when the judge is sitting on his chair and there is another person who is too weak to stand, it may be just as kind to say that a chair be brought for that person, and not to give his own chair, for by doing so he would not fulfill his duty properly. When he is out of the court then he can show his kindness.
Question : Which is the quickest way to attain dignity?
Answer : By learning to think one develops dignity in nature. The more thoughtful one becomes, naturally the more dignified one becomes, because dignity springs from thoughtfulness. A person who offends is light-hearted, and the one who is light-hearted is foolish. He may seem clever and yet be light-hearted; but he goes no further than the worldly cleverness, and very often that cleverness falls on his feet as an iron chain. As Sa'di says,
"My cleverness, thou actest so often against me".