To Be Human

Posted on 11 October 2014

We often have such unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of others. This will get in the way of meaningful relationships. As soon as a person wanders out of our direct experience they often turn into symbols. We forget their humanity and in our minds they become either super or sub-human. When we forget that humanity it becomes easy to make terrible decisions which bring suffering to these people’s lives. Ultimately it ensures we will continue to experience suffering in our own lives.

Here are a few thoughts to consider about being human.

• Everyone experiences suffering, and to each person that suffering is significant, because they have to live with it.

• It is a waste of time comparing suffering. There’s a game that goes, “My suffering is greater than your suffering, so I don’t have to care about you.” This just furthers sufferings.

• You cannot wait until your life is better to start caring about others. You will always be experiencing your own suffering while reaching out to help with others.

• Helping others is an excellent way to not get overly focused on your own suffering. However, you still need to recognise when it is time to attend to your own difficulties.

• Suffering should not be required of a person to show their loyalty, to justify their art, to demonstrate what a good person they are, etc. Some people tell inspiring stories of how they have overcome suffering or have turned their suffering into something of value. Never take that as an indication that you should seek suffering in your own life, just that if it happens then you can turn it around.

• We are all so fragile and we are all so strong.

• No one is free from fallibility and vulnerability. No one. Not presidents, kings, queens, heroes, superstars, your parents, your teachers, your friends, not even you. Nor can you escape fallibility or vulnerability.

• Infallibility or invulnerability are not to be admired. To do so is to deny humanity and to stop caring. How helpful is it to judge yourself or others as weak for simply being human.

• No one person can save the whole world, nor should they. You should not expect it of yourself, nor should you expect it of others. The world is the responsibility of each and every individual.

• Be slow to put people into the too hard basket. Sometimes some people are too difficult for you to deal with in an ongoing fashion. Make sure you are creating the sort of society where they can find help, even if you personally can’t offer it. Someday you might be the person who is put into the too hard basket.

• You are human, forgive yourself. Others are human, forgive them. Life will be an ongoing exercise in forgiveness.

• Find the strength and commitment to work through the troubles in your relationships. Everyone experiences ups and downs. Everyone makes mistakes. Let temporary occasions of anger be just a moment which challenges a friendship to grow.

• Let no mistake, tragedy, or loss be seen as defining of who you are or anyone else is. Nor let mistakes, tragedies or losses be seen as the end of the world. It’s very easy to get lost in such moments and it can be very hard to pick yourself up and move on. But it is possible. Give yourself the time and compassion to realise that possibility.

• Find places where upon occasion you can confess yourself. Be someone to whom people can confess themselves upon occasion. Help is being given when a person simply and solely listens.

• Treasure every moment of light you find in your life, no matter how big or how small. Offer even the smallest moments of light to others: smile, say “thank you”, offer a little help, offer a little friendship.

Peace and kindness,


1 Response to To Be Human

  • Lorel Thomas says:

    Dear Katherine,

    You have elegantly expressed much of what is in my heart and which I feel embodies Quaker values. Thank you for your deep humanity and love. You are an inspiration.

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