#11 | Arthur Ungar | Replace "Worthiness" with "Worth"

Submission 11
Arthur Ungar
First Unitarian Church (Portland, OR) 7131

What is your suggestion or idea?

In Equity We declare that every person has the right to flourish with inherent
dignity and worthiness, Replace worthiness with worth.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

Worthiness is long and uncommon. Unnecessary complexity and makes the sentence clumsy.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

We had a large workshop which was well attended. The proposed Article II was well received, and this one one of the few changes generally agreed.


Yes. Poor writing is a sign of bad priorities.


Yes, except I think it flows better as “worth and dignity” rather than “dignity and worth.”


Yes, ‘worth and dignity’ flows much better because of the prosodic pattern in English to build a conjunct with Shorter + Longer pattern for words (‘worth and dignity’ vs ‘dignity and worth’)!


Please note that the commission, in their FAQ, provides this rationale for the use of “worthiness.” (See Frequently Asked Questions: Article II Study and Revisions)

Why worthiness?

We’re dealing with a past in which monetary worth was assigned to human beings. “Worthiness” is more explicit that we are talking about the quality of being worthy. Definition “quality of being good enough.” We are all good enough as we are. Worth can be monetized. People were and still are being monetized. That definition of worth is not the original intention; for people who have a history of their people being monetized. Worthiness can never be monetized. We are all worthy of love, respect, dignity, kindness, compassion, and care.


Worthiness definition:
Collins dictionary: having the qualities or abilities required
Cambridge: how suitable someone or something is
Oxford Dictionary: the fact of having the necessary qualities for something
Macmillan Dictionary: no result
Dictionary.com: the fact or quality of having great or adequate merit, character, or value:

Obviously word meanings are flexible, but to me, this doesn’t make sense. “All people have the right to flourish with inherent dignity and are suitable” Or " … and have adequate merit".


Worth has meaning beyond monetary. “Worthiness” sounds forced.

1 Like

I understand the reasoning re: “worth” in the FAQ, and agree that a history of people assigned monetary worth deserves consideration. I also agree that “worth,” in both dictionary definition and common parlance, holds broader meaning, and am somewhat inclined toward claiming that broader meaning. That’s a way of saying I’m “on the fence.” However, from a “gut feeling” standpoint, I have to add that, to me, “inherent dignity and worth” or “inherent worth and dignity” have more “punch” than “inherent dignity and worthiness.”


I don’t much care about the FAQ explanation, unless it is added into the by-laws. If it needs to be explained, it should either be rewritten or the explanation included.
Why can’t worthiness be monetized (another horrible word)? Why do you state that “we are all worthy of love, respect, dignity, kindness, compassion, and care” as a fact, when some people in the wider society clearly do not believe that. Do the politicians who refuse universal health insurance consider everyone so worthy? Do those who want indiscriminate rights to pollute others’ air or water? Worth is the more common and understandable word and should be used.

1 Like

I prefer “worth”. I have read the FAQ rationale for using “worthiness” instead of “worth”. It makes a good point, but I’m still not convinced. Worth is powerful for its succinctness. Worthiness sounds trendy and pretentious. The extra syllables seem to me to water down the meaning.


agreed, definitely
(+ more characters)

Maybe we can change it to be that we have Inherent worth and dignity? (neither worthiness, nor monetary worth)


Maybe the sentence should stop at “…every person has the right to flourish”.
That is the important part, and eliminates the argument about “worth” and “worthiness”.
I do think that the word “worth” is less objectionable if it is used in the phrase “inherent worth”. Used in this way, it implies an equality of worth for all.


too late now, but I think that would do it (at least for me)

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