“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” –Nelson Mandela
I remember giving a copy of Being Human to one of my family members soon after it had been published in late 2013.
He read the headline on the back cover: “The basic, immutable nature of all human beings is well-being, clarity, and peace of mind.”
It took him aback. I knew how he felt because that idea took me aback when I deeply heard it just nine months prior.
He looked at me and, with complete respect and simple curiosity, asked “How can you know that? What about all the evil in the world? What about criminals and child molesters and…”
There at the Thanksgiving dinner table he went on to make a case that the basic, immutable nature of some human beings might be well-being. For others, it was clearly dysfunction and mental illness.
He assumed that as a psychologist I’d seen enough dysfunction and suffering to know better.
He expected my book to be about fixing people; developing morals and values to right the places in which we’ve gone wrong. Learning to do the right thing so we could stay on the right path. Isn’t that what makes Being Human noble and worthwhile?
His very fair, not uncommon questions represent one way of seeing human nature. From that viewpoint it was inevitable that he’d see proof of humans’ lack of innate health and well-being everywhere he looked.
We’d all see that, looking through his thinking.
And I simply had different beliefs that felt deeply true. Because I had recently learned about three Principles that create all human experience, I couldn’t make myself see it his way. That snake was now a rope; I couldn’t see a snake if I tried.
When I looked out at the world, I told him, I saw people who are well-being, clarity, and peace of mind simply caught up in thought, mistaking their thinking for who-they-are.
So what about those criminals and ‘mean people’? he wanted to know. How do I explain that?
I’m not saying I’m right—my beliefs are thoughts too, no different than yours, I told him. But it makes sense to me that we’re all the same. That there is a single human blueprint, not a bunch of unique ones.
That we are all well-being, clarity, and peace of mind, no exceptions.
And that we all live in a sea of our own thinking, mistaking our thinking for who we really are.
Sometimes thinking is criminal. For me, too.
Other times it’s loving. But that thinking can’t define us when we see it for what it is. We are the well-being, clarity, and peace of mind within which that thinking occurs.
We all mistake our thinking for ‘us’; for truth. But that’s an innocent, human misunderstanding.
Could it really be as sweet and simple as you say? he asked.
Could it really be as grim and complex as you say? I wondered.
Each of us gets to reflect, and discover what feels right to us. What feels true to you?
It makes sense to me that we aren’t born hating, judging, or discriminating.
We have to learn hate. Hate isn’t there until someone thinks it up.
If we can learn to hate, we can learn to see the true source and nature of that hate. It is fearful, insecure thinking that takes shape within us in a moment.
We learn to cling to transitory, thought-created hate. And we can unlearn that clinging and misidentification.
Love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.