What does it mean to be humanitarian?

With the nature of news reporting and its obsession with all things dramatic, conflicted and deficient – we may easily be duped into feeling humans are a terrible heartless species.

However, psychological and social studies have revealed the very opposite – that we are inherently caring beings. We are social creatures with deep and abiding bonds; and with a natural inclination to love, nurture and support each other – even strangers.

Sure, we are complex. We can feel the full range of emotions, from the darkest and most depraved, to the brightest and most divine. These potentials all lie within each of us. But most of us have a moral compass that guides us away from our shadow side. We naturally seek to rise to our higher nature. What prevails in our nature and actions are usually those qualities given the most priority and nurturance.

Adversity surrounds us

Why then do we see so much adversity, inequity and injustice in the world?

When we examine this closely, we observe that these issues are driven not just by a small percentage of corrupt minds, but by pervasively corrupt systems and governance. Add to this the media mantra ‘it’s drama that sells’ and it’s no wonder we can feel overwhelmed by the negatives. Yet even still, the greater percentage of the human population care greatly for each other and wish for the happiness and well-being of fellow citizens.

This tells me that largely, we are already humanitarian. We are compassionate, humane and generous. But there is a unique quality behind humanitarian values that invites us all to take a step up: selflessness.

Understanding selflessness

How then can we awaken greater selflessness? 

By first recognising that we are all interconnected and interdependent we may acknowledge how reliant we are on each other. Your well-being is essential to my well-being. Although the links between us may have a great distance – we may stand on opposite points of the circle – the reality is, we are part of the same circle. 

As we engage in this truth, as we extend our care beyond our own self or immediate circle, we realise there are far greater gifts in bringing well-being and happiness to others. We all benefit.

In celebrating our common bonds and shared nature, the walls of difference and division are dissolved, and naturally, loving kindness is increased and extended.

Kindness is the key

Being humanitarian doesn’t necessarily mean we need to be on the front line of a poverty zone, or that we are part of humanitarian organisations. It starts with the simple actions we take each day: of recognising our fellow humans as a part of our own circle; of recognising we all share the same desire to be free of suffering and to be happy. It starts with our ability to acknowledge the suffering of others and the willingness to extend help on the basis of need, without discrimination.

It starts with our small acts of kindness, care and respect for each person we encounter. It starts with our acknowledgement, that we truly are equal in our humanness and our spirit. From this comes loving celebration and respect for our diversity and the will to collaborate as one human family.

What does it mean to be humanitarian? We are inherently kind and as we extend kindness to each other we strengthen, enrich and bring greater meaning to our circle. We make the world a kinder happier place for all.

Let’s start by honouring the quiet selfless individuals who take action for the well-being of others every day. And likewise, for those who have taken it upon themselves to dedicate their lives to the larger humanitarian crises of our world. Let’s start by cultivating understanding and respect for others and appreciating how even the smallest act of kindness has the power to generate a wave of loving kindness that extends right around the world.

So whenever possible be kind. And remember… it’s always possible.


© Isira Sananda 2020 – All rights reserved

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