I once denigrated my brother. Perched on an ugly, high horse of self-righteousness I proceeded one morning to tell him how his drug addiction had ruined my peace of mind and ruined his future and when I paused to draw breath so I could spew another reason why he should be ashamed of himself he said, “The good in me sees the good in you.”
True, he had lied and stolen and traumatized my children—and our family had drained bank accounts to send him to rehab…twice. All this was true and will always be true, but his words cut down my ugly horse and forced hot shame straight to my core. There, amidst the stink of his home, in his shredded hoodie, his bloodied broken nose, and frozen filthy bare feet, this heroine addict preached one of the most beautiful sermons I would ever hear. He saw goodness in me. I had failed to do the same for him.
Why continue to have faith in the goodness of other people? Why continue to have faith in humanity as a whole when day after day you hear stories of petty crimes and drug-fueled robberies? And communities terrified by crazed gun wielders? And children shot between morning announcements and first recess? And entire communities brutalized, murdered, forced from their homelands onto frigid oceans in flimsy boats because that is better than what they’re running from?
Because noticing the goodness in others, something as simple as watching for good drivers in traffic or appreciating effective customer service, or even looking for the good intentions of someone criticizing you, deepens the optimistic nueropathways in your brain. Having faith in humanity matters because as my brother reminded me, when we look for the good in others, we find it. What kind of world do you want to see?
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” –Harper Lee
But having faith in the goodness of humanity can do even more for us than increase our optimism. When you see the good others are doing, it motivates you to do good, too. It reminds you to be the change you wish to see. When you see how others cope with their adversity, it encourages you to better cope with your own.
If you have faith that humanity as a whole is generally good, then you see global atrocities through the lens of faith. This lens allows you to look deeper at the motivation of others. It allows you to see others with compassion. When you seek to understand why an organization would promote acts of terror, instead of evil you might see hungry, desperate, downtrodden souls looking for ways out of their despair.
Faith in humanity matters because it is the very thing that will heal what is broken in this world.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” –Mahatma Gandhi
I once held my brother’s son in my arms. Perched on the edge of a couch in my brother’s tranquil lamplit home, I rocked a tiny exquisite milky baby to sleep. This warm bundled miracle preached one of the most beautiful sermons I would ever hear in the silent peace of that room. That hope and love and redemption are winning every day in this bitter wretched world.
We are all part of humanity. We belong to one big human family. We belong to each other. When we put our faith in humanity we are putting our faith in ourselves.
Rachel Coleman is a writer, designer, and believer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.