Growing Our Humanity

I have been reading a beautiful book about writing [1]. It says: Everything is permitted.

Any thought that arises is permitted on the page. We are allowed to be inspired by and include anything and everything.

And I think that is true of our humanity.

What is humanity?

© User:Digfarenough / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

© User:Digfarenough / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Everything! (and anything)

We use the word to mean kind, respectful. We talk about humanitarianism, meaning kindness towards and caring for others. Of course, that’s humanity.

By contrast, we talk about inhumanity: murderers and serial killers, rapists and torturers are clearly inhumane.

Yet, somehow, that creates a limited definition, because whatever a human is capable of doing or of thinking, then that is part of humanity (no matter how depressing).

Which means Growing our Humanity is definitely a strange phrase. Possibly an uncomfortable one. Even so, I believe that it’s important to use the word ‘humanity’ in its most inclusive sense when talking about our essence – what makes us human, good and bad. By using the widest possible definition, we open the door on all the darker aspects of our humanity which we tend to ignore or deny.

Perhaps, instead of denying, our task is to grow large enough in our person, our confidence, our emotions, that we can include those parts we like, those we don’t, the parts we’re proud of, those we’re scared or ashamed of. Perhaps that is growing our humanity: growing our own personal container to allow all of us, because by limiting that container we are pushing parts away, down, and surely that leads to festering and mal-expression of those parts.

(And whilst I’m writing in terms of my personal container for all my personal colours, actually I mean to include and expand into familial, communal, societal – even global – containers.)

Maybe growing our humanity is another way of saying nothing is taboo – our full spectrum of thoughts and emotions are expressible, knowable, and usable. When we quash some of them, we lose part of ourselves …

Dealing with the dark side

Of course, it’s tricky and challenging and, whilst I make this appeal for total wholeness, I can’t yet do it. I have a lot of growing of my humanity to do. I have dark parts. Dark means bad, right? I don’t mean bad. I mean unexplored, un-illuminated.

What do we need in order to illuminate, to explore the fullness of our humanity?

I’m a simple soul, so I would start with just two words, purely at the level of the individual: firmness and kindness.

My firmness is that which allows me to commit and stay committed, it allows me to stand up and shoulder the weight of growing my humanity when it’s difficult, challenging, painful. It is my firmness that helps me stay resolute and re-commit with every single breath if necessary.

And it is kindness that recognises that this is hard, that this is painful, that I am scared, that I don’t particularly like illuminating myself. That I am seeking to grow and yet I am not seeing either the growing or the results, and that frustrates me.

Don’t travel alone

Yet there is another key ingredient: community.

The part of me that needs to know it’s alright, often does better when experiencing the warmth of people’s hands on my back, saying yep, we’re with you. And the part of me that needs to know I’m not alone and I’m not a basket-case does better when it has an opportunity to reach out to other people and say hey, yes, you’re alright too because – by reflection – if you’re alright in your mess, then I start to understand that I’m alright in my mess.

The we-ness of it all

And here’s why it’s important: take the current migrant crisis in Europe. There are mainly two reactions to it: (1) close the borders, keep them out, not our problem; (2): let them in, and it will all be fine [2].

If I am prone to the positive – love will conquer all – that can fall into a happy-clappy positivity with no recognition of the existence of a darker side of possibility.

And if we keep them out, well, that does not allow for the manyfold miracles that birth into existence through working with love and positivity.

Growing our humanity is not a nice-to-have. It’s not a fluffy thing. It is hard work. It deals with the questions we smash up against every day.

And it starts with who am I? Deeply, who am I? Where am I prepared to go? What am I prepared to see in myself and in others?

That is where it starts – growing our humanity.


  1. Finger-painting on the Moon, by Peter Levitt
  2. In the interests of transparency, I find (1) incomprehensible because I think those borders will open, whether they open because we welcome people in, or whether they open because the war in the Middle East spreads to Europe. Thus I subscribe a bit more to (2).