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Are you human?

People / World

Image: xedos4 / www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I’m only human.

 

You’ve heard it said and you may have even said it yourself.

And when is it normally said? Usually after a mistake or a failure? Probably.

Is it an excuse? A disclaimer? Something to be proud of? A statement of solidarity with the rest of the human race?

There is something about being human which is entirely unique amongst the rest of the animal kingdom. No other living creature has the capacity for original thought and creativity as humans do – and no other living creature is quite as cruel or destructive…

 

Haim Ginott is credited with writing the following ‘letter to teachers’:

Dear Teacher,
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians; infants killed by trained nurses, women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.

 

What does it mean to be human? Clearly there is a distinction between the kind who makes mistakes whilst offering a blushing ‘I’m only human’ and the kind described by Haim Ginott above. Ginott is urging us to help our children ‘become human’ – to be compassionate. And the reason we need to be compassionate is because we are human: we make mistakes, we mess up, we cock up. But that’s not the same as the wanton cruelty as described in Ginott’s letter.

 

The fact is, being human means we make mistakes and we (hopefully) learn from them – but we need to know there are others around us to bear with us in our mistakes – to accept us and keep believing in us. And to forgive us.

Children are no exception. After nearly twenty years in the teaching profession, one thing I know for sure is that, whilst technology, economies, curricula and Education Secretaries change, children do not: children just want to be accepted for who they are, to be believed in and to experience compassion.

I’m inspired by the following exhortation, which is often mis-attributed to Plato but most likely originated by the Rev John Watson:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

 

Similarly, Seneca (4BC) is credited with the statement:

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.

 

Want to be more human? Be kind. Be compassionate. But don’t wait for an opportunity – just be it.

Be human.