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On Dignity

‘The truly humble can never be humiliated.’

A great deal of our community’s focus is on healthful choices, dietary discipline, wardrobe, fitness and other aspects of appearance and behavior as they relate to the sexual and spiritual lives of our members.

We seek ways for these values each to be reflected accurately in the way we present ourselves to others. To see these things as superficialities is to misunderstand the reasons for our emphases. For example, for us, submission is dignified in every meaning of the word. A well-instructed woman who has been serious about her own formation carries herself with confidence, behaves with grace, shows her worth in the way she grooms and dresses and demonstrates the pleasure she finds in pleasing others in the way she acts toward them. These are gestures not only of a woman well-acquainted with our understanding of submission but also one who finds elegance in the simplicity of her surrender.

That does not mean we are aloof or unappreciative of a very wide variety of sexual experiences. However understanding the importance of self-worth is important to us for a very obvious reason: If we are to give ourselves as gifts to those whom we trust with our surrender, then the value of that gift must first be seen in the esteem we have for ourselves. If we think we are worth little, then what can the gift of our submission be worth? A gift that is worthless to the giver is not a gift at all, no matter how much value the recipient may place on it. Submission in itself is not an act of self-abasement, no more than submission in itself is an act of subservience. The higher the value we place on ourselves, the more meaningful our submission becomes no matter how it is expressed—even if it’s expressed by a wish to be humble. In fact we seek ways to be humble. It is a comfort. The truly humble can never be humiliated. Our constant goal is to become a priceless gem given in full recognition of our worth but always given without limits.

Our community is based on the respect we have for each other as sisters in submission. But it’s also based on a respect we have for ourselves. Even attempting this formation in its fullest sense demands that we respect who and what we are—women attempting to live in submission. Not in subservience or in weakness, but in a full confidence that our internal strengths are sufficient to allow us to find purpose and happiness in giving to others. For many of us, it’s the hardest thing we will ever do.

Not every community member seeks the benefits of disciplines of course, but for those who seek formation, the dress requirements we obey, the grooming habits we embrace, the opportunities we are given for reflection, the efforts we make to maintain good health and physical beauty, the way we are taught to sit, to speak, to reveal ourselves with dignity and courage—all of these have been learned through attentiveness to the disciplines we embraced throughout our formation. They reflect the value we place on our submission because they reflect the way we have learned to see ourselves—as intelligent, capable women fully aware of the profound meaningfulness our surrender implies. Moreover, we possess a certainty that by doing these things well we make ourselves more becoming to others—while investing our own lives with watchfulness and balance.

“Let your demeanor, your dress, your walking, your sitting down, the nature of your food, the quality of your being, your house and what it contains, aim at simplicity. And let your speech, your singing, your manner with your neighbor, let these things also be in accord with humility rather than with vanity. In your words let there be no empty pretence, in your singing no excess sweetness, in conversation be not ponderous or overbearing…Be a help to your friends, kind to the ones with whom you live…patient with those who are troublesome, loving towards the lowly, comforting those in trouble, visiting those in affliction, never despising anyone, gracious in friendship, cheerful in answering others, courteous and approachable to everyone…”

—St Basil the Great, Homily on Humility, V.