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Reconsidering our “faith in humanity”

Faith in humanity

As I’ve been practicing being a better listener, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the words people choose to express themselves.

Some people argue that word-choice is typically thoughtless—a reflexive, instinctive sort of reaction, certainly not well-thought-out enough to warrant digging any deeper.

I’m not so sure about that.

I’m inclined to believe that word-choice matters more because it often comes from a reflexive, intuitive sort of place. So, for example, when an acquaintance shares a news video depicting a selfless first-responder rescuing a helpless animal from a devastating mudslide with the caption “this gives me hope for humanity,” my ears prick up.

Or another story I read recently, wherein a stranger left an extremely generous tip for their waitress, because they sensed she needed a boost. Again, the caption “this restores my faith in humanity.”

“Hope for humanity.”

“This restores my faith in humanity.”

I’m sure you hear some variation of these expressions all the time. Some might say they’ve become almost automatic, like saying “bless you” after someone sneezes. These expressions have become a way of signaling to others that the story is refreshing, and a buoying contrast to much of the news of the day. But the word choice, and the extremely common nature of these expressions always piques my curiosity, and it’s hard to fight the urge to dig deeper.

It’s interesting, and sad, to witness so many people simultaneously experiencing a crisis of faith, but also to watch them continually pour and re-pour their hope and faith into the broken vessel of humanity.

Humans have in us the ability to reflect the beauty, tenderness, and love of God, but it’s no secret that that isn’t our natural disposition. (If it were, why would so many people proclaim a lack of faith or hope in humanity?)

When people witness an unexpected act of tenderness, mercy, generosity, or forgiveness, they’re getting a sliver of a glimpse of the nature of God himself. It’s no wonder people share these stories of life-giving refreshment! When humans reflect the goodness of their Creator, we’re reminded briefly of what we’re called to, and where we’ve come from.

But to misplace that feeling of refreshment, that hope, that faith, and continually expect humans to deliver on it is to set oneself up for a lifetime of disappointment, anguish, and fear. If your faith and hope is in humanity, the world feels cold, scary and threatening. Humanity is so fickle, ever-changing, and unpredictable.

If you find yourself feeling skeptical that you should have any faith or hope in humanity, I think you’re absolutely right. Humanity, at its best, can only reflect the goodness of our Creator, but humanity cannot actualize the goodness of our Creator.

If you can place your hope and faith in the Creator of all things, you’ll find the world to be a much less threatening place. You’ll have a constant refuge—a safe place to be renewed on a moment-by-moment basis. And you can accept humanity as it is, while doing your best to share this merciful refreshment with others.

At the very least, the next time you remark that something “restores your faith in humanity,” I hope your words ring in your ears, and I hope they will give you pause to consider the wisdom of pouring and re-pouring your faith and hope into broken vessels.

You know how much you love stories of people being good to one another. So why settle for a sliver of a glimpse of the goodness of God? Why not seek after the origin of that goodness?

Peace to you,

mj

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