Experience Breakthrough by Embracing Humanity - Two Words That Change Everything

“You’re only human.” A common notion that is thrown into many contexts. And although there is a tendency to misuse this idea to justify wrong doings, it is a powerful concept to comprehend. Once you start embracing your humanity and shed the expectation for perfection, something starts to unfold. A powerful truth emerges; one that can be summed up in two words that change everything.

Two Words That Change Everything

In his book Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey shares about a transformational experience he has. As a young actor, Matthew experienced an incredible surge of success that should have brought feelings of elation and confidence. But instead, he felt underserving. That this was too good to be true, and that he was an imposter who simply got lucky.

In desperation he visited a retreat and spent three and a half hours walking in through a desert with a spiritual advisor, Brother Christian. He unloaded his soul, dumping his guilt and unworthiness. At the end of the walk, Brother Christian had still not said a word. With Matthew weeping and waiting his judgment, Brother Christian replied after much stillness, and whispered two words, that transformed everything and empowered the actors forward motion.

In his book The Power of The Other, Henry Cloud shares a painful business story from his own life. In a nutshell, the narrative goes as follows: Henry bought a business and entrusted someone to run the concern. A year into the business, Henry discovered that instead of receiving an anticipated cheque of profit, the business required a cheque of rescue. It was floundering and in debt with no immanent cash inflows. He shares in quite descriptive detail the pain of shame and remorse for being so stupid, for being so hands off, and for his distant trusting stance.

Whilst in this shameful state he gets the phone call he has been dreading. His trusted mentor, a successful role model who taught him everything about business, has called to ask him how he is doing. He cringes as he shares his sad news, his failures of entrepreneurship, and decision making and rigor. But when he puts the phone down, he is renewed and back in the game. Two words have transformed everything.

What Does Embracing Humanity Really Look Like?

Have you ever asked or pondered the question, ‘what does it mean to be human?’ It’s a deep
question; the kind that you can’t find an answer for on Google. For some it might seem too esoteric, religious, or spiritual, and for others it might feel irrelevant or inconsequential. But the power of the question is found in its collectiveness.

Over the past few years, I have experienced a growing understanding of embracing humanity. You are human, I am human…and what does this shared humanity mean or imply? Whilst I might consider myself unique, which I am, I am also grafted together with the rest of world in the commonality of our humanity. But what does it mean at it’s root?

It means we all have…

 The desire to survive
 Cravings; for meaning, belonging, achievement, food, companionship.…
 Feelings and emotions of fear, vulnerability, failure, anger, loneliness….
 Feelings and emotions of happiness, joy, excitement, gratitude….
 The ability for consciousness, mindfulness, contemplation, prayerfulness…
 The ability to love and hate, to be generous and greedy, to dream and despair…

We could go on and on, but what strikes me about being human is how paradoxical our nature is. Humans are complex yet simple, beautiful yet fragile. Capable of both love and harm; a hybrid of positive and negative, alive with faith and doubt. To be human is to embrace our shared and complex paradox.

This grapple is made clearer for me by a statement from psychologist Susan David. Susan says that we often have what she calls ‘dead men goals.’ Goals that are focused on bliss, pure enjoyment, no fear, no anxiety – it’s the description of superman. But she powerfully reminds us that the only people who don’t feel hurt, angered, embarrassed, fearful, or anxious, are dead. In other words, to be human is to wake up one morning fully confident in your ability, where the world is a great and wonderful place, but the next day feel doubtful, shameful and overwhelmed. To be human is paradox. Because of this we need strategies. We need tools, we can develop, and we need to make room for both the joy and the pain. And we regularly need to be reminded of two words.

Perfectionism: The Opposite of Embracing Humanity

One of my big battles in life has been the continuous background music of ‘it’s got to be right; it’s got to be perfect.’ This is a destructive game that prevents self-compassion and connection. Within the strive for perfection is the dangerous focus on ego that compares my success, my possessions, my moral standing, and my intelligence to the person next to me. After all, it can’t be perfect if someone else is better at it than me.

This state equates the expectancy of being human to some God like status. Here, being human is about success and achievement in comparison to others. Here, what I do, is always judged by what others will think and say. The quest here is to be superhuman. This is not all bad, but it can lead us down a dangerous path of seeing my humanity in comparison to others rather than shared with others. I grew up in the Christian faith, and I note with intrigue that the prayer that defines the Christian way, is plural not singular. It’s about OUR Father, and OUR daily bread, and OUR transgressions. Is it possible that to be human is first and foremost an identification with US rather than I? When I recognise this, perhaps I won’t take myself so seriously. Perhaps I will find liberation from the strive for perfection. I love these words from Richard Rohr that give some insight into these scrambled thoughts:

‘My life is not about me, I am about life.’

So, What Are the Two Words That Change Everything?

In the business world you often need to give people feedback. Sometimes, you need to engage some difficult conversations. But in all this, you want to speak up in ways that earn you credibility, build relationships, and inspire others to grow. Just like the words spoken by Brother Christians to Matthew McConaughey and Henry Clouds mentor. What should we express or what should we remember as we prepare and engage another?

Well, it’s these two words that have the potential to transform. And by the way, it’s the same two words that started a revolution in the last few years. Have you worked it out yet? They are two, simple and short words:

Me too.

The only words that Brother Christian gave Matthew McConaughey are the two simple short words of ‘me too.’

Clouds mentor expressed with compassion, ‘me too.’ I might have been successful, but ‘me too’ … I have made wrong judgement calls. That is our shared humanity. Any difficult conversation you hold with another, should hopefully come from the premise of the other person being ‘human just like me.’ When we do, it’s no longer a competition, or a quest for super star status. It simply being human; being us.

Connecting with my humanity is not an excuse. It’s the recognition of paradox, and the celebration that as humans we have within us the power to choose, to change, to support, to love. Research has shown that when we embrace our shared humanity, we are more likely to own our mistakes, to move in the direction of healing and restoration, to be vessels of love and hope. When we no longer need to prove and compare, we can be workmanship for good works, for life.

Where do you need to hear the words ‘me too?’
Where do you need to share the words ‘me too?’