Humans are social animals

Humanism helps us focus on what is really important, our relationships.

My friend Judy asked me to write on this topic, so I am. She told me, “I really like this idea Relationships – we are social animals and we need other people to feel secure. Nurture close relationships and treat them well. A bunch of shallow friends don’t give you the same benefits that close friends and family do.”

And she’s right. We are social animals. We need other people. One of the values of Humanism is that it reminds us of the fact that not only are we a social animal. So is everyone else.

Humanism reminds us that we need to remember that the people we meet are real. This helps us to connect with them in a real way. For some reason this is really hard to do. But if we make the effort, which requires us to feel compassion, we are rewarded with a sense of belonging and connectedness that is both inspiring and nurturing all at the same time.

We humans are funny animals. We both need and strive for autonomy. And we need and strive to feel connected. As a result, we always seem to be out of balance. Too autonomous or too dependent.

I am reminded of a quote by Blaise Pascal: “A man does not show his greatness by being at one extremity, but rather by touching both at once.”

For me, I find that it is only when I consider other people compassionately, that I am able to be both autonomous and connected at the same time rather than being at one extreme or the other. The requirements and obligations of responsibility towards others are things that I choose autonomously. They are not foisted upon me. I do them out of love.

The benefit of this approach is that it helps me more easily nurture those relationships that matter to me and to not take them for granted while not feeling overburdened by them or hemmed in by them. It’s a choice. Like everything.

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