The Sacred Human explores the role of our humanity in the expression of our divinity.
Humanity has an awesome potential. We are made of the star stuff and in the image of our Creator. Our capacity for compassion and love is beyond imagining. Then why are we not expressing all that we can be? Why is our divinity still locked inside us as an “imprisoned splendor?”
The reason for many of us is that we are unwilling to accept our humanity. We consider parts of us unwholesome and unworthy of a place in our lives or the world. We try to hide our hurts and end up imprisoning our divinity.
The third millennium calls for a new species of human being, one that knows its humanity to be sacred and its potential to be divine.
“Nothing has had a greater impact on my inner life and therefore my life experience than the sacred human. For years I tried to change my humanity. Sometimes it seemed to work, and at other times I seemed to fail. And then through a series of experiences I discovered that my humanity needed to be experienced and accepted. This was the beginning of the life I live today.”
A human being is a marvelous creation, little understood, and therefore constantly under investigation. We probe our physical being and try to understand parts of ourselves that cannot be seen or touched with the five senses. We answer the philosopher’s call “know thyself,” but even before Plutarch, the Greek moralist, spoke these words, a greater journey had begun.
As human beings, we sensed new possibilities for the human family. The need to explore new lands was actually the need to discover who and what we are and what we are capable of doing and being. As we drew our first breath, we mounted an expedition with the hope of finding meaning and purpose and a way to give full expression to our potential.
Today, just as it was thousands of years ago, we want to know ourselves. Some investigators begin with the body. The cells, tissues, and organs are prodded and studied. In our time, even the building blocks of physical life are being explored, for we have turned our attention to DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, the double helix that houses the genetic code we pass to our offspring. However, in spite of this expedition into the unknown, we remain a mystery to ourselves.
The physiological part of us is wondrous and mysterious, but what about our behavior? The things we do astound us. Each year athletes perform physical feats of speed and strength that break the records of those who have gone before them, but what about the wife who in a time of crisis is able to lift an automobile off her husband? And there is more.
What about our ability to put aside what is considered our strongest desire, the will to live, and to sacrifice our lives for others? Jesus, it is said, did this for humankind, but soldiers in combat have thrown themselves on live grenades, so their comrades in arms might live.
Our emotional fortitude is likewise immense, for we are able to forgive even the most grievous acts of hatred that have been committed against us or our loved ones. We are abused, and yet, at times, we forgive the abuser, and in a way we do not understand, his life and ours are better.
We sense a great potential in us. We may be made of dust, but if this is so, it is the dust of the stars. In the dimension of our being that cannot be seen, we are God-stuff.
Consider the sum total of incredible acts of compassion and physical and spiritual strength that human beings have exhibited. To ponder such things is to catch a glimpse of our true selves and what we are capable of doing and being. There are people who are studying our peak performances, pursuit of excellence, and search for meaning. There are even religions that put an emphasis on the best that we can be rather than our failure to express our true nature. How wondrous we are, “made a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5, KJV)!
However, even though our capabilities are immense, for most of us, they remain an unrealized potential. Imagine what we would be like and what we would accomplish if we expressed our latent talents and inherent abilities. Individuals who express their potentials make a great impact upon others and the world. What would the earth be like if thousands and tens of thousands of us lived life in this way?
It is wonderful to think about such things, but we are snapped back to “reality” when we see people with success written all over them fail to make their contribution to their family, the community, or the world. The return to reality is even more painful when we are that person. This is perhaps the saddest thing in the world. We all lose when grand possibilities remain dormant.
But knowing our capabilities does not mean we express them. Something is holding us back. I believe one of the reasons is that we do not know, accept, honor, and celebrate the sacred human. As you read and work with this book, you will learn the ways of the sacred human and come to appreciate its presence in your life. Be gentle with this part of yourself, for it holds the key to the life you want to live. Ask the sacred human to emerge from the darkness and stand in the light. As it does, the one made of the stuff of the stars will take its rightful place in the world.
Failure Is Not The Problem
When an infant is making the transition to toddler and is experiencing the ups and downs of learning to walk, what is the more truthful description of the potential of the child? It is the time the little one sways and lunges forward for a few steps, or when he or she stands erect and then promptly falls to the floor? Do parents focus upon and applaud the falls or the steps? The answer is simple, a few steps speak more accurately of the child’s potential to walk and run than the many attempts to walk that fail. Let us not judge our potential by our failures, but by our triumphs and the successes of our fellow human beings.
The typical person struggling with life is more aware of mistakes and weaknesses than triumphs and abilities. In mind, there are memories of both mistakes and successes and to them are attached feelings, images, and beliefs. Each memory carries a message. One recollection calls us to reach so high that we are lifted above our current condition, and we do what we have not done before. These are the memories of past triumphs. They say to us, “You did it once, you can do it again. In the past, you performed the impossible. You can do it again.”
In this way, we tap our latent talents and abilities. The other message says we must remain as we are, for we can do and be no more. These are the memories of past failures. To recall one of these past events is to tap into feelings of inadequacy, fear, and insecurity. As children learning to walk we knew which message to heed. As adults, we often forget this lesson.
All of us can sense a potential to be expressed or we would not try. We enter into new ventures with trepidation, but also with expectations. This is normal, for any new thing is an experience of both the sacred human and the one made of star stuff. Deep within is the realization that we can do this thing, so we try; however, we may fail. The failure actually means nothing other than we have tried and not yet mastered the skill or situation, but often we believe it means we cannot do this thing, that we are less than other people, or that something is wrong with us. Eventually, we may stop trying. This is the human tragedy, for it binds us to failure, tells us lies about ourselves, and causes us to shy away from those things that bring out the best in us. In short, it imprisons our potential.
Failure Is Not the Problem
Failure is not the problem. We all fail. No human being ever learned to walk without falling down. The child does not try to fix the failures or correct the mistakes. The little one performs no maintenance on himself. Learning to walk is an adventure, and besides, there are things to get into and objects to hold in our hands and shove into our mouths. The child simply accepts falling down, places no cosmic significance upon it, and gets up again. Is this child more gifted than others or is this one simply expressing an innate ability to put the world in proper perspective?
Our Most Grievous Error
We make mistakes, and admittedly, weaknesses are a part of the human condition. It seems natural that weaknesses be fixed and purged from our lives. Maintenance must be performed on us by ourselves or by those with the skills to erase the error. This is what we think, and it is our most grievous error.
The memory of failures and their pain does not need to be erased. We don’t need to be fixed, and change is not initially required. In fact, doing maintenance on ourselves is part of the problem!
Many successful people had a friend or special person who helped them express their potential. The godsend could see something in them that they could not see in themselves. Occasionally, this mentor might point out weaknesses or mistakes, but the main message was “there is something special about you. You have worth and talent to be expressed. You are a gift to the world.”
Would the person have been able to express his capabilities if the special friend always pointed out mistakes and weaknesses? The truth is it is nearly impossible to express our best selves when in the presence of someone who views us as broken and needing to be fixed. True mentors are not maintenance people. They are visionaries who see what we have not yet seen.
However, the greatest influence upon us is not the view of others, but our view of self. The most impactful environment is the one within us, and we create it by the beliefs we choose to form and hold about the events of our lives. Our true environment is not outside us; it is within. Conditions may be dire, but we have a choice to direct our attention to what we want to see. We create the atmosphere of thought and feeling in which we dwell.
Victor Frankl is a wonderful example of one who chose to live in an inner world of purpose and spiritual values. Mr. Frankl was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Dachau during the Holocaust. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl wrote, “One evening, when we were already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of everchanging shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red. The desolate gray mud huts provided a sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy ground reflected the glowing sky. Then after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, ‘How beautiful the world could be.'”
While in the midst of the hate of the Nazi regime, Mr. Frankl discovered the key to humanity’s salvation. “I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Imagine making this discovery in a concentration camp. This is testimony of what we can be. On another occasion, Frankl and a friend agreed to tell one another each day a funny story about something that would happen to them once they were liberated. By doing this, they affirmed the enduring qualities of joy and laughter and that one day they would be free.
Being Fully Human
This is a challenging way of life. Some people mistakenly believe that it means overwhelming the mind with positive beliefs and pushing out the negative and limiting thoughts. In other words, we try to push away the negative memories and feelings or at least hide them from ourselves and others. This may seem to work for a time, but eventually and usually at the most inopportune times, the old feelings, memories, and thoughts return to rule our lives again. We may push them away once more, but they are not gone. We may experience the fullness of the anger or shame of the past again, or we may become depressed as non-specific feelings of dread fill our days and nights. This attempt to push aside or hide part of our human experience is resistance, and it only strengthens the impact of the past on the present.
Such happenings make us painfully aware of our weaknesses and our human tendency to dwell upon them. We think they are holding us back, and so we curse them. We are like Paul who said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Trying to do our best and failing are part of the human experience, and so is doing the thing we don’t want to do. Every alcoholic and drug abuser know the nature of compulsive behavior, but so does the person who is overweight or who tries to find peace through control of others and situations. The good news is this life of limitation is not our destiny. There is a grand and wonderful potential to be expressed and lived.
It Is Feelings We Fear
Thoughts and memories can have a powerful effect upon us, but it is feelings we fear. When they sweep over us, we are out of control. We don’t just have hurt feelings; we hurt. Shame, embarrassment, abandonment, grief over losses of various kinds, and rejection are some of the most powerful feelings we can experience. We want them to go away. We try to hide them from ourselves and from others. This attempt to hide or suppress our feelings or to attempt to fix or change ourselves denies a part of our humanity and hides from us the wonders of the sacred human.
Let there be a new insight, for nothing needs to be hidden and nothing needs to be fixed or changed. In fact, our attempt to hide portions of our humanity or to change them is part of the problem. We are half alive because we are not experiencing the fullness of what it is to be human.
We Are Spiritual Beings
It is true; we are spiritual beings. Our capacity is immense, more than we can imagine and certainly more than we are expressing, but the “imprisoned splendor” does not emerge when we shun the human experience. It enters our world because we fully experience our humanity. Experiencing our humanity rather than trying to change it is our first step. In doing so, we come to understand that our humanity is not a burden, but sacred and of God. Then we can take additional steps that open a doorway, so our potential can be expressed.
I’ll wager that by the time you finish reading and working with this book, you will consider your humanity with its blemishes and foibles to be sacred and precious. You will be more alive than you have ever been in your life. More of the star stuff will be made manifest as your life becomes a shining light.