It is only when we face enormous challenges that we realize what a gift self-respect is. Some of us may be well aware how hard it can be to maintain it, when we seem to lose everything else! Life can be unpredictable: today we can consider ourselves in full control and on top of the world, and tomorrow we may hit rock-bottom. For others, who witness our plight from a distance, it may seem ridiculous when we feel worthless, but they may not be able to relate to our experience and the depth of our feelings.
However, even when we go through extremely tough times, we should consider the one we always see when we look into the mirror. We owe it to that person to maintain our self-respect. I recently read in a Surinamese newspaper that a woman, who was desperate because her husband had intentions to leave her for a younger woman, visited a traditional healer ("bonumang") to save her marriage. The man did not only charge her quite some money for his "services," but advised her to do the creepiest thing: she had to visit a local cemetery in the middle of the night and sleep for three hours on a grave occupied with a dead body! The healer claimed that other people who did the same thing had been able to save their marriage.
The saddest detail of the story above is not whether the woman ultimately did what the bonumang advised her to do or not, but rather that she lost her self-respect by even trying to keep a partner who obviously wanted to be somewhere else with such a grotesque act. She may not have looked at it as such, but trying to keep someone against their will either indicates tremendous weakness or ruthless selfishness. Money or perceived security may, of course, have been a driving motive as well. But this woman has a long road ahead of regaining her sense of self-worth, and if she ever finds it, she will still have to try to forgive herself for her desperate behavior. And that can be a tough one!