Humaneness (January 16)


“A jeweled pivot on which our lives must turn is the deep realization that every person we meet in the course of a day is a dignified, essential human soul and that we are being guilty of gross inhumanity when we snub or abuse him” (Joshua Loth Liebman).

ALL OF US ARE “HUMAN,” BUT HOW MANY OF US HAVE LEARNED TO BE “HUMANE”? We should not only conduct ourselves in an honorable way; we should also treat others honorably, with the dignity and compassion they deserve, since they are creatures with the same nature as we. It is no small feat to deal with those around us, consistently and genuinely, as human beings — beings who are not simply mineral, vegetable, or animal . . . but personal.

True, there is a sense in which we speak of treating animals humanely. When we use the word in this way, we refer simply to the kind, merciful, and compassionate treatment of animals. This kind of humaneness is by no means unimportant. In fact, how a person treats animals is one measure of that person’s character. The Book of Proverbs contains this statement: “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

Yet in its highest sense, humaneness refers to the treatment of other human beings in a “human” way. It means that we never lose sight of their value as persons. And in the end, the willingness to do this usually comes from our having experienced enough failure and sorrow that we’re able to empathize and treat them humanely despite their misjudgments and mistakes. “Through the portals of sorrow we can enter into the suffering of others. Our human compassion is kindled. Our sympathies are awakened” (Sidney Greenberg).

With the means of travel and communication that are available to us now, the world has become a smaller place. Not many days go by that we’re not reminded of the larger world that we’re a part of. These reminders should make us more humane. “There is no feeling in a human heart that exists in that heart alone — which is not, in some form or degree, in every heart” (George MacDonald). Whoever we are, you and I have much in common. I should treat you accordingly.

“There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity — the law of nature, and of nations” (Edmund Burke).

Gary Henry –