My title for this blog is sappy, I know, but it's the best summary of humanity and my approach to life that I can possibly come up with. I firmly believe that is exactly what we all are: people in need of love. And not just the romantic kind. I mean brother-to-brother, sister-to-sister love even when we are not family, even when we're separated by national or cultural boundaries. I mean parental love: the care and guidance given by a mother, father, or someone who fulfils that role and protects. I mean agape love: love at its ultimate, the love that is willing to sacrifice whatever it must for the best of others.
There are kinds of love in this world that are so often overlooked in pursuit of an emotional rush, or because we find expressing love awkward. That compassion and care for others is a kind of love that should be celebrated and freely expressed is buried under fear of offence, and the very real possibility of being made uncomfortable. I've kept my mouth firmly shut plenty of times when I actually knew it was right to try and say something helpful, or check if someone was okay. Plenty of times I've rebuffed a well-meaning word of encouragement with the lie "I'm fine," because I didn't know how to accept their kindness. The prospect of acknowledging need, and thereby weakness, has our hackles up.
As far as I see it, we've got a couple of problems, and the first is that we live in a society that doesn't tolerate what it sees as weakness. Is there any state of being that doesn't come in for ridicule and judgement from one party or another? If you're less strong or physically able you can get left out of sports and physical activities even in school - people assume you don't try hard enough, and those assumptions follow into adulthood. Those who struggle with academics, regardless of the teaching scenario or their personality type and learning styles etc, are labelled 'thick', 'stupid', 'a failure'. Those who carry 'extra' weight for whatever reason are vilified for a lack of self control; people assume that they are lazy.
The young are dismissed for a lack of experience, and the old are dismissed as out-of-date. Women are told they have equality with men but are discriminated against in work and society for having children, not having children, having a career as well, staying at home with kids, wearing certain clothes. Men are assumed to be bullish, brutish, unintelligent, incapable of doing more than one things at once, not a 'proper man' if they are short/unbearded/single/etc. Whatever it is, you can be sure someone has a problem with it.
We have labelled our differences as weaknesses, and frankly, there just is no safe ground - some sector of society will always be pulling down another. With this to contend with, is it any wonder we have learned to put up a front of "I'm fine", and never admit we might be struggling? Is it any wonder that we hesitate to offer help, in case we offend someone by implying that they can't cope? Is it any wonder that changing ourselves somehow might seem like our best chance of securing love of any kind?
The second problem is the barriers created by the fact that we end up filing ourselves into categories in order to cope with this dog-eat-dog approach to life. We distance ourselves from things and situations that could hurt us. We want to be invulnerable; to show the haters that we've risen above their hate and prove that nobody's opinion matters except our own. It's an understandable reaction and sometimes a necessary one, but in the pursuit of strong individuality, do we lose our sense of community? When I put myself where people can't hurt me, I also put myself where they can't actively love me, either. When I stop seeing humanity as my brothers and sisters, I can detach from compassion, too.
Often I am so focused on my own life and on myself that I find it all too easy to overlook the needs of others, just like I ignore my own needs so that I don't have to open up and be vulnerable. I hate people knowing I can't handle something. I hate letting them see a weakness. But without acknowledging that weakness, after a while I can believe my own lie and start to act like I'm superior in some way.
This is what I find so dangerous, because a superiority complex easily breeds abuse of power. Gone is the understanding that we are all in this together, and in its place all sorts of uninformed judgements, which might not be openly expressed, influence every action and every choice not to act. When I let myself think I'm better, I lose my sense of place in humanity, and I fail to be of any use to anyone around me. I become a worse person. And I forget how to love.
I'm not saying all this because I'm trying to morally condemn society or individuals, or imply that my experience is the case for everyone. I'm just hoping that my honest thoughts on this subject might be of interest to some people, and as always with anything I write, that it may spark some constructive discussion. Personally I don't think that mankind is capable of perfect expressions of love in and of itself; I believe we need some help, and that the best form of love is divinely modelled. Plenty of you will disagree with me on that, I'm sure, but that's what I see as truth.
However, I also think that the potential for that perfect love lies within each one of us - the potential for thoughts and acts of respect, of genuine care, of compassion, of encouragement, and even of sacrifice. The acknowledgement of our shared humanity comes hand-in-hand with our responsibility to one another to attempt this love, even if we may fail. It is my sincere hope that I will learn to put this goal above that of my own comfort, realising that strength does not equal invulnerability, but the ability to overcome in spite of vulnerability.