“What makes us human is not our mind but our heart, not our ability to think but our ability to love.” Henri Nouwen
In much of my reading for the past few years from the late medieval Christian mystics, love remains the predominant human attribute. But then, after reading the quote above from Henri Nouwen, my mind wandered elsewhere. In addition to love, I wondered, what is it that makes us fully human?
Being Human is Common to All
Perhaps one of the first ideas that comes to mind is “commonality.” Until we realize that the human condition, with frailties included, is clearly common. Yes, each of us is blessed with some measure of love, kindness, compassion, empathy, patience and all the other lovely attributes that might take up the remainder of this post.
But what I am thinking about today is more about our common pitfalls: selfishness, anger, revenge, greed, and unfortunately a good bit of passive meanness. We are afraid of not being accepted, not being loved, not being appreciated, or not being treated as we feel we deserve.
Being Human is Displaying Opposite Traits
When I begin to ponder these fearful aspects of the human condition, I am forced to return to the blessings of what it means to be human. Because of our frailties, love, kindness, compassion, and patience become even more essential. If not for these blessings, how else could we manage life in a world where everyone is only concerned with “what’s in it for them?”
I guess that is why our beloved Henri Nouwen will write, “What makes us human is our hearts and our ability to love.” As humans, in a world composed of self-centered broken people, we will occupy both sides of the good-bad equation.
Being Human is a Choice
I am speaking for myself here and I reckon for you as well. So what does this all mean? It means, yet once again, we have a choice. The first step is to recognize that all our actions toward people and toward the world require some intentionality and some personal reflection. Intentionality and reflection give us time to choose… What does it mean for ME to be human?
Yes. Common to humans is the ability to make conscious choices about what kind of human we want to be? Whether to bow to negative impulses or elect to rise above them to the higher level of… Yes, Love.
Being Human is Merely
Whatever I Choose It to Be
Photo courtesy of SPmemory at istockphoto