(Unsplash/Leo Rivas)

Embracing the messy truth of our humanity

Instead of falling into a pattern of tying someone’s actions to their identity, we must learn to see beyond actions.
(Unsplash/Leo Rivas)

Soul of Nonviolence” is a podcast that reflects on a different nonviolence quote each week. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or via RSS.

“There is no bad individual; there is no bad boy or girl, it is their actions that may be bad. Some people have more problems than others, so we work with the problem rather than say to the person, ‘You are a liar,’ or ‘You are a thief.’ Instead we say, ‘You have a problem of lying,’ or ‘You have a problem of stealing.’”
— Mubarak Awad

This week’s quote from Mubarak Awad invites us to step out of black-and-white thinking and embrace the messy truth of our humanity. Faced with a natural tendency to judge a person based on their actions — especially those that harm others — this quote gives us a challenging and important task: separating the action from the person.

I use this quote as a guide to explore how we can fall into a pattern of tying someone’s actions to their very identity, when in reality identity lies much deeper than just what a person does. Identifying someone by their actions can have a dehumanizing effect, leaving their self worth in the hands of external judgment. Seeing beyond actions to who an individual truly is allows for a healthier self esteem and gives them a point of reference about themselves independent of others’ opinions. With this, we can see our own value and that of every person not solely for what they do, but also to see the value in their being as well.