Not a Bad Definition of Human

One Thursday, I sent an angry email.

I also snapped at my mother. I kept a colleague waiting. I texted a friend that I loved her. I talked with a buddy in stress. I felt jealous I wasn’t included in a conversation. Between meetings, I basked in some long-unseen sunlight. I hoped a peer thought I was smart. I got enough sleep.

If I stuck one of those sentences on stage alone, I could really judge myself. I’m a bad person for snapping at my mother. I’m a good person for attending to friends. I’m a small-minded person for being jealous.

But those judgments aren’t accurate. They take a sliver of a much larger whole and judge the whole from it. It’s like looking through a telescope and judging the entire sky from it.

We are unsimple and contradictory creatures. Which might not be a bad definition of human. Our soul is an ongoing process; it cannot be pinned down to any one behavior or thought - good or bad.

That Thursday, and every day, I have a dizzying spectrum of different, often unaligned pieces in me: kindness and vengeance, despair and delight, terror and greatheartedness. But I am no one piece; I am the whole.

As the whole, my work is to hold all the pieces with hands firm enough, gentle enough that I don’t over-identify with or get overrun by any one piece. As the whole, my work is to hold others with hands wise enough to know they are more than the piece I am seeing.

It’s not permission to send unkind emails or snap at people. It’s awareness that we are more than those angry pieces. And I think we own that awareness by choosing to act from different pieces in the future.

Holy guacamole.

That’s some work, eh?

But the alternative is to mis-see ourselves and others, to mistake the sliver for the whole. It might be a manageable way to see humans, but it’s not an accurate way to see humans.

So why not aim to hold ourselves and others as the whole and holy sweep of contradictions we are? We were never promised that living would be easy. But we can move ourselves towards living that is truthful.

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