My friend Peggy has really gotten me riled up by something she posted yesterday on Twitter and Facebook: “Brooding over error that a junior journalist would not have made. Annoyed with myself. Also exhausted. Cat and cocoa will help.” Not sure of all the protocols for online privacy, so I am presuming her posting in two online venues gives me permission to make some comments here. Besides, I continue to brood about something I consider pretty important.
You need to know that Peggy is a superb writer and communications professional who has held numerous leadership roles for prestigious institutions you would recognize. My reply to her posting was: “So wish you could see this in the context of all (99.999993%) you consistently do so masterfully. I know how perfectionism can hold us in its nasty grip! Cat and cocoa are good antidotes. So are friends who know how good you are!” The burr under my saddle is additional comments made to Peggy: “Give yourself a break and move on. After all, we are just human.” and “You mean you’re human?” We hear such well meaning remarks too often. Sorry, I fear such rationale is dangerous and simply wrong!
I truly believe there is much less danger in humans thinking too much of themselves than in thinking too little of themselves. There’s enough self-doubt, self-putdowns, even shame to go around! Isn’t much of the glitter, glamour and posturing of our overtly social selves largely an almost adolescent cover for feelings of inferiority, insecurity and self-doubt? Peggy’s honest sharing of her brooding sounds pretty healthy to me. I take exception with the all-too-frequent explanation that demeans our humanness as the source of our errors. We make mistakes, for sure! But, we are better off and more accurate by grounding these in being fallible, imperfect and at times culpable — that is, not God. Being human should not be held hostage to that reality.
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? I don’t think so! I confess to having been ruined by a liberal arts education that required courses in Metaphysics and Philosophy of Human Nature. I admit more than run-of-the-mill enthusiasm for a semester long course in “Christian Anthropology” at divinity school. This stuff matters! It shades the messages we send to our kids as they construct their sense of self as well as the quality of care we bring to ourselves when we discover yet again that we are less than perfect. It also colors the way we look at others — especially those “other” than ourselves. Too many, too often, dismiss faulty behavior – and I fear diminish our very selves – by finding an excuse in being “just human.”
Scratch a little more and you will see this perverting our relationship with God and religion too. We all know too many churches and preachers of every denomination who are big on guilt and masters at instilling shame. If there weren’t such a good market out there, “ministry” would not be so lucrative for so many! You get the picture. Here’s my question: Do we see ourselves as inherently good, indelibly marked with the Image of God or is our nature inherently “fallen” and radically dependent on the utter gratuity of God’s grace? You can guess where I come down.
Yes, I am fallible, imperfect, too often culpable and need to confess my sin. But I am also human by God’s benevolent grace. Like the humus from which we sprang, to be human is to be rich, fertile, filled with potential and capable of giving-life. It will come as no surprise, then, that one of my favorite stories is that of the Annunciation of Mary. The Holy Spirit breathes once again upon God’s own creation in the person of “a lowly servant.” In Mary, God impregnates the human in our most simple and ordinary expression. God becomes human in this most humble of persons! Think about it! The relationship between the human and the divine is neither forced nor discordant. In fact, it required Mary’s “Yes!” There is an innate receptivity, resonance, rightness in the union of the human and the divine. In this lies our salvation.
“Just human?” Does it really matter? I believe so, BIG TIME!!!