Becoming human

“I believe that loneliness is something essential to human nature;
it can only be covered over, it can never actually go away. Loneliness is part of being human, because there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human heart.” ~ Jean Vanier [p7]

I have just finished re-reading Jean Vanier’s book entitled: Becoming Human. Here are some random quotes from the book that I invite you to read and reflect on …

To be human is to accept ourselves just as we are, with our own history, and to accept others as they are. To be human means to accept history as it is and to work, without fear, towards greater openness, greater understanding, and a greater love of others. To be human is not to be crushed by reality, or to be angry about it or to try to hammer it into what we think it is or should be, but to commit ourselves as individuals, and as a species, to an evolution that will be for the good of all. [p15]

The truth will set us free only if we let it penetrate our hearts and rend the veil that separates head from heart. [p16]

To a certain extent we lose control in our own lives when we are open to others. [p29]

About prayer: We need space to re-read the day, as it were. We need time to listen to the inner voice of hope calling us back to the essentials of love… [p32]

The need to win … can paralyse the development of the heart, prevent healthy cooperation among people, and promote rivalry and enmity. [p51]

One day in Paris, I was accosted by a rather dishevelled woman who shouted at me: “Give me some money!” we started to talk. I learned that she had just come out of a psychiatric hospital; I realised quite quickly that she had immense needs and I became frightened. I had an appointment and I didn’t want to be late, so I gave her a little money and went on my way, just like the Pharisee and the Levite in the gospel parable of the good Samaritan. I was frightened of being swallowed up by her pain and her need. [p70]

We feel so inadequate in the face of poverty. What can we do to change so many seemingly impossible situations? … I had this fear of being sucked into a vortex of poverty. To be open is an enormously risky enterprise; you risk status, power, money, even friendship, the recognition and sense of belonging that we so prize… [p79]

To give food to a beggar who knocks on the door can be quite an easy thing to do. But if he keeps coming back — with his friends — then what do we do? We can become totally lost and insecure. We are at sea with no horizon, in unknown territory without a map. We are frightened that the beggar is calling us to change our lifestyle. [p80]

Our hearts, however, are never totally pure. People can cry out to be loved, especially if as children they were not loved. There are “loving” relationships that are unhealthy because they are a flight from truth and from responsibility. There are friendships that are unhealthy because one is too frightened to challenge one’s friend. These are the signs of the immature heart. An immature heart can lead us to destructive relationships and then to depression and death. [p87]

Hatred is like gangrene: it eats a person up. All our refusals to communicate with others and to be open to them enclose us in a prison. But how do we move from accusation, no matter how legitimate it may be, to openness and acceptance, and even a desire to see our enemies liberated from their fears and selfishness? The process begins when we become aware of the walls within us that are built on fear and unconscious anger, and when we become aware of how our openness towards those we call friends can be a protection from anguish and loneliness. [p150]

Wisdom and insight be yours in your reflections. Grace, Alan

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