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Human - Humane - Humanity - Humanitarian - Humanism

Updated on September 12, 2014

What It Means to be Human

I'm not a scholar, so if you're looking for a scholarly article on humanism, this isn't it. But I am human, a human being since birth, and a bit of a philosopher. More than that, I'm an observant human with many years experience watching people and how they treat one another. I've noticed that many people have inadequate humane feelings toward others, something I find very distressing.

To be human we should be more than just homo erectus: a body walking upright on the earth. We should be homo sapien - meaning "wise man".

Humans who are simply out to please themselves are missing the big picture: that we are part of a collective whole: the human race. It is true that when one person suffers it brings down the entire human collective, and unless we're willing to do our part to improve the condition of the human race, we haven't earned the "wise man" homo sapiens distinction. I would go so far as to say that a person who is living only for himself is sub-human, even while still in the garb of a human body.


Human - Human - Definitions of the Word

One can be human without being human - and so you will see when we examine definitions of the word.

1. The most basic definition of "human" is "belonging to the genus homo". This covers a whole lot of ground and includes many species that are not human beings.

2. The second definition describes human beings... born as homo sapiens.... though many are not living up to the name.

3. The third definition describes human beings as opposed to machines or animals... suggesting that we are something more, that we should indeed live up to the "wise man" name of homo sapiens.

4. The fourth definition is a direct reference to the spiritual virtues that human beings can and should demonstrate in their lives, such as kindness, compassion, and generosity. These are the human characteristics that set many human beings apart from the sub-human "me only" mentalities.

From Birth as a Human Being, to Birth as a HUMANE Being

Taking "human" one step further, add an 'e' to get "humane". This is the condition we should aim for. This is what differentiates us from machines.

When children are educated in the attainment of virtues the world will improve. We need more than just mathematics, reading and science. We need to know what it takes to become illuminated, fulfilled human beings.

Why I'm Ranting About Being Humane Rather Than Merely Being Human

I live in a small community where we've had a bit of a shake-up recently, pitting humane and caring people against people who are just out for themselves, or out to use others for self-aggrandizement. This has brought me to the realization that there are two types of people: (1) humane, and (2) sub-human.

Humane = having compassion

Sub-Human = not rising to the meaning of the words, homo sapiens (wise man)

As an example of a sub-human individual, let me introduce you to a woman I used to work with. One day while making a sandwich for a customer a fly landed in the mayonnaise. She picked it out and continued to make the sandwich, and gave it to the customer for his wife. Rather than start over with clean food, she put the restaurant's profit-margin first. I would call this essentially a sub-human or inhumane act. Putting money before people is not humane.

This is a microcosm of a far-reaching problem in materialistic society - as we all know that industry has taken precedence over humanity on many levels. Industry feeds on humanity... on human labor and on human needs. This situation is essentially inhumane insofar as compassion and concern for the weakest and smallest among us is lacking.

Example: You want a new cooking pot to replace a broken one, but you're unemployable, poor, saddled with outrageous rental costs? Well, there are plenty of new cooking pots in this world, but you can't have one! You're left out in the cold, and industry sure doesn't care to help you unless you have the price they've set for their goods.

Most people are conditioned to find this to be a reasonable situation, but others rise above the condition of mere humanness, to a condition of humaneness... the state of caring about the hardships, well-being, and needs of others, and putting those needs before personal profits. Those who actually do something to help others in need have progressed from being humane to becoming humanitarians.

Humanity - Are We Going to be Humane, or Sub-Human?

Humanity, the human collective, said by many to have one spirit, is woefully off-track. The past century held one horrific war after another. Images and news stories of the killing and injuries of children during military attacks have confronted us and broken our hearts.

This is unquestionably a sub-human approach to life, and those of us who haven't perpetrated such atrocities are still affected by them in both obvious and subtle ways. There is no escape from the inhumanity of humanity, for it surrounds and traumatizes all of us.

This must change. It is time for humanity to grow up. It is time for compassion awareness. It is time for people on both individual and collective levels to consider the needs of others with as much or more concern as they give to their own.

I'm sure you've seen a flock of birds that all change direction while flying simultaneously because they have a consciousness that pervades all the individual members of their flock. Likewise, humanity has this subtle consciousness, though most are not aware of it as we haven't been trained to notice subtle energies.

The more people who are pulling for compassion, caring, human kindness, virtuousness of every type, the higher humanity will become spiritually, and the closer we'll be to becoming a real "wise man" homo sapien species. This is what being human is all about. This is our goal. This is the collective journey of humanity. Each one of us can play a part in making this world a better place for everyone.

Are You a Humanitarian?

You don't need to be rich to become a humanitarian. You just need to be willing.

You don't need to go to the Middle East or Africa to offer humanitarian aid. You can do it in whatever city you live in or near.

You don't need to offer money to be humanitarian. Often only a compassionate, caring attitude and a listening ear are needed.

You don't need to wait until you're old and gray-haired to be a humanitarian. You have all the necessary qualifications for humanitarianism right now.

You're human. Be truly human - be humane. Look beyond yourself and into the needs and desires of others. This is wisdom. Each individual's personal journey into the humanitarian lifestyle will help lift the human collective, humanity, from the sub-human to the humane condition. We're looking for the hundredth monkey effect to change the human world.

What is Humanism?

I am not talking about secular humanism...

I am talking about the doctrine that it is the goal of human life to learn to compassionately help promote the well-being of every human, and thereby to elevate the human collective, humanity.

You can do that with God, or without, but whichever way you go, it must be done.

Start by evaluating your own actions. Are you like the sandwich maker who serves dirty food to others, or would you put aside your profit margin to make sure your products are sanitary and safe for others to eat?

If you're a parent, teach your children the value of virtues, and show them how to be virtuous. The best teaching is done by example.

Quotes about Humane Humanitarian Human Life

"Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal." - President John F. Kennedy

"The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." - Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

"We are all alike on the inside." - Mark Twain

"Our inner strengths, experience, and truths cannot be lost, destroyed, or taken away. Every person has an inborn worth and can contribute to the human community. We all can treat one another with dignity and respect, provide opportunities to grow toward our fullest lives and help one another discover and develop our unique gifts. We each deserve this and we all can extend it to others." - Anon.

"If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own . . . how much kinder, how much gentler he would be." - William Allen White


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    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 

      4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Excellent piece of work! It's easy to lose focus on the big picture as we go about our daily lives. But without compassion, the world -- all people, animals, and the environment -- becomes endangered.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      This is a very inspiring and thought-provoking article. Many good observations and topics for my personal ruminations. Great hub!

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      This caught my eye. I'm just making a note here so I can find it easier and revisit. Looks really interesting.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Enjoyed the perspective you added to this complex topic. Wonderfully done.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have very few close friends, and that is by choice. I require that people pass the compassion and empathy test before I will commit a friendship to them. Life is much too short for me to spend time with people who do not practice those two humane traits. Thanks for your reflections.

    • daybreak profile image


      7 years ago from Atlantic Coast of North America

      This is a favorite hub of mine. I wish more people would take a moment and ask themselves, "Should I be helping others or just focusing on myself".

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Thanks so much, Rebecca and Mythbuster! I'm happy the word is spreading.

    • mythbuster profile image


      8 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      An awesome article, LindaJM! I'm passing this article around because you've written clearly, plainly and powerfully on what being human/humane really means!

    • Rebecca Saunders profile image

      Rebecca Saunders 

      8 years ago from Australia

      What an interesting, unique and thought provoking hub. A wise question - what is it to be human?

    • LindaJM profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Jo Martin 

      8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my article today. I've been musing on the polarity in human consciousness and especially compassion awareness for so long now, it finally took form and had to be expressed on this page.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Good, thought provoking hub.

      The world will indeed become a better place if more people do what you've said in this paragraph:

      "The more people who are pulling for compassion, caring, human kindness, virtuousness of every type, the higher humanity will become spiritually, and the closer we'll be to becoming a real "wise man" homo sapien species. This is what being human is all about. This is our goal. This is the collective journey of humanity. Each one of us can play a part in making this world a better place for everyone."

      Thanks for sharing this gem of truth.


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