Strengthening unity through common humanity.

Increasing Unity through Common Humanity

In Education, Self-Care, Social Health, Wellness by Courtney ArcherLeave a Comment

In a world that is tearing apart at the seams, our common humanity is a binding thread that has the potential to bind us together. The things that mark us apart have become more and more apparent, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find common ground.

Disagreement and agreement are both necessary to change and progress. The fact is that people’s differences can serve a purpose in finding unorthodox and innovative solutions. However, those differences run the risk of being villainized when viewed without the anchor of common humanity.

When someone offers a different opinion, it has become almost second nature to label their difference as evil, radical, extreme, or inane. Rather than considering the validity of someone else’s experience, especially when it is different from our own, it has become common to invalidate anything that does not fall in line with our own views.

The problem is not that we disagree. The problem enters when we refuse to consider that someone else’s viewpoint might have any validity, when we refuse to listen to each other no matter how important the issues at hand.

Instead, our opponents become misguided fools at best and heinous monsters at worst. In a time when our differences are often taken to a black and white realm of extreme conclusions, we have to be the ones to add back in the gray.

That is where common humanity comes in. When we keep our common humanity at the forefront of our interactions and dealings with each other, it allows us to disagree without losing sight of each other’s validity.

increasing unity through common humanity

Increasing Unity through Common Humanity

What is Common Humanity?

Common humanity is the list of things that all humans have in common, no matter their race, nationality, religion, upbringing, or age. They are things that the lowest of the low has in common with the highest of the high.

Common humanity includes both positive and negative things. No one goes through life without experiencing triumph and failure, difficulty, and ease. We all experience differing degrees of these things, but we all experience them.

Along with the positive and negative things we experience, common humanity also includes common hopes and desires. While everyone has different goals and values, there are some things we all long for.

One example of common humanity is our desire for love and belonging. Everyone wants to love and be loved. From those we hold in the highest regard to those we hold in the lowest, every single one of them wants to be loved and to belong.

Another example of common humanity is suffering. Every human who has lived on this earth has suffered. We have all lost loved ones, been dealt unexpected hands of health or financial stability, and lived with unconscionable regret over mistakes we have made.

Often these things that we hold in common are the motivating factors that lead us to disagree. One person’s suffering gives them an entirely different perspective than another person’s suffering.

For example, a person whose primary source of suffering has been a life of poor health probably views universal healthcare differently than a person whose primary source of suffering has been financial instability. Both of those still likely have vastly different opinions than someone who has suffered at the hands of others.

You do not have to agree with someone else to respect the path they took to reach their conclusion. It is a lot easier to find some respect for another person when you consider the common humanity you share with them.

Photo of definition of common humanity.

The Importance of Validation

There are a few definitions of validation, which is likely where some of the confusion of the word comes from. Indeed, the first definition listed at is ” the act of confirming something as true or correct.”

That is not what we are talking about here. It is the third definition that comes into play when discussing the importance of common humanity: “the act of affirming a person, or their ideas, feelings, actions, etc., as acceptable and worthy.”

It is a little ironic that both of these are definitions of validation because they are often in conflict with each other. We struggle so much with affirming people as acceptable and worthy because we do not want to confirm their way of being as true or correct.

However, when we refuse to validate people as acceptable and worthy, it becomes all too easy for people to become disposable. Instead of coming together and agreeing that it is alarming for anyone to treat any life as disposable, it is far more common to point fingers and argue that the other side is worse about it.

If we are to value life, we must value life. Demanding validation without giving it is fighting fire with fire, and will never lead to a peaceable resolution. If we are to see an increase in unity, we must be the ones to pursue it.

Photo with quote about the importance of validation.

How Our Common Humanity Can Bring Us Together

One of the many nice things about common humanity is that it gives you something in common with everyone. It gives you some insight into what motivates people and why they might think and feel the way that they do.

If we could see someone else’s life from beginning to end, we would doubtless understand so much about their priorities and beliefs. But with common humanity, we do not have to know everything about everyone else. We already know the most important things.

We know that they have suffered. We know that they need to be loved and to belong. How different would we approach conversations and discussions if we kept these things in mind?

Certainly, we would be less harsh. How could we automatically label someone as stupid or evil if we knew they were doing the best they could, despite pain and struggle and suffering, to meet the same needs we have?

Of course, we know that there are people who engage in villainous behavior–people who seek to hurt or manipulate others for their own gain. But I would argue that, by and large, those people are not the ones with who you are friends on social media or who live in the house next door.

The villains of the world definitely do not make up half the population, and they are not all in the political party opposite yours. In fact, if you are starting to think of a large group of people as misguided or evil, it is a pretty good indication that you are losing sight of their humanity.

We all find ourselves in this place from time to time because we all get burned out from time to time. It is a natural response to the overwhelming flood of information and opinions we have access to through easy internet access and social media.

It is imperative to notice when you find yourself entering this way of thinking. It is an opportunity to remind yourself of the common humanity you share with the people you disagree with, to remember that they are just as human as you are.

Photo with quote, "with common humanity, we do not have to know everything about everyone else. We already know the most important things."

Actions to Take Toward Unification

Fortunately, we are all capable of learning to recognize when we are dehumanizing others and contributing to the ever-growing divide. This means that we are capable of affecting change.

The only person anyone is capable of changing, after all, is themselves. So look inward, and consider some of the following things you could do to humanize rather than dehumanize:

  • Seek to understand before seeking to explain/convince/justify.
    • This means asking questions before offering information. These questions look something like:
      • I’m curious how you reached this conclusion. Will you please explain more?
      • Could you tell me some more about why this is important to you?
    • Asking questions is not a one-and-done strategy. It is an opportunity for you to learn more about someone and why they think the way they think.
  • Find common ground. Even if you are on the opposite side of an issue, there is still common ground to be found. Generally, it actually has something to do with common humanity.
    • For example, at the heart of many strongly debated issues is people’s desire to take care of other people.
    • When engaging in discussion, look for the ways that people are trying to help others, not the ways they are trying to hurt you. Most of the time their beliefs really do not have much to do with you.
  • Validate.
    • This does not mean you have to tell people they are right, it means acknowledging that you can see how they have reached their conclusions.
    • You can validate and also disagree. This might look something like:
      • It makes sense that you would think that. I have a different perspective.

The bottom line is respect. You do not have to engage in a conversation to acknowledge someone else’s humanity. It is enough to, when you see or hear something you disagree with, remember that there are some key things you have in common with that person.

Unity is not about everyone believing the same thing. It is about being able to communicate without dehumanizing each other. It is about being as committed to learning from others as we are to educating or correcting them.

Photo with quote about unity.

In Conclusion

When we value our common humanity, we seek to understand before seeking to convince. We look for things that bring us together before launching into the things that divide us.

Doing so is counter-intuitive. Unity is not an easy path. It requires a willingness to examine oneself and the ways we cling so exclusively to our own perspectives that there is no space for anything else to exist.

Unity is uncomfortable. Honoring each other’s humanity requires letting go of the idea of the moral high road. It does not mean losing morality, rather it means acknowledging that what is morally correct for one person is not necessarily morally correct for another person.

It is natural, expected even, that you will not get this right every time. I certainly do not. The important thing is to be aware of it so that you can at least get it right some of the time.

Unity requires acknowledging that two different things can be true at once. We can disagree and we can value each other despite those disagreements.

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