Becoming Human Quotes

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Becoming Human Becoming Human by Jean Vanier
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Becoming Human Quotes (showing 1-29 of 29)
“To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefor unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“But let us not put our sights too high. We do not have to be saviours of the world! We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and in hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time. (163)”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“I have discovered the value of psychology and psychiatry, that their teachings can undo knots in us and permit life to flow again and aid us in becoming more truly human.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“When children are loved, they live off trust; their bides and hearts open up to those who respect and love them, who understand and listen to them.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Every act of violence is also a message that needs to be understood. (23-24)”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“To reveal someone’s beauty is to reveal their value by giving them time, attention, and tenderness. To love is not just to do something for them but to reveal to them their own uniqueness, to tell them that they are special and worthy of attention.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“What happens when a child feels unloved, unwanted? There is nothing to compare with the terrible loneliness of a child; fragile and helpless, a lonely child feels fear, anguish, a sense of guilt. And when children are wounded in their hearts, they learn to protect themselves by hiding behind barriers. Lonely children feel no commonality with adults. They have lost trust in them and in themselves, they are confused and feel misunderstood. Lonely children cannot name the pain. Only self—accusation remains. However, life wants to live. If some children fall into depression and want to die, others seem to survive despite adverse conditions such as sickness, squalor, abuse, violence, and abandonment; life can be tenacious and stubborn. Instinctively, all children learn to hide their terrible feelings behind inner walls, the shadowy areas of their being. All the disorder and darkness of their lives can be buried there. They then throw themselves into their lives, into the search for approbation, into self—fulfillment, into dreams and illusions. Hurts and pain can transform into the energy that pushes children forward. Such children can then become individuals protected by the barriers they had to build around their vulnerable, wounded hearts. Children who are less wounded will have fewer barriers. They will find it easier to live in the world and to work with others; they will not be as closed in on themselves. The lonely child is unable to connect with others. There is a lonely child in each of us, hidden behind the walls we created in order to survive. I am speaking, of course, of only one aspect of loneliness, the loneliness that can destroy some part of us, not the loneliness that creates.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Claudia lived a horrible form of madness which should not be idealized or seen as a gateway to another world. In l’Arche, we have learned from our own experience of healing, as well as through the help of psychiatrists and psychologists, that chaos, or “madness,” has meaning; it comes from somewhere, it is comprehensible. Madness is an immense cry, a sickness. It is a way of escaping when the stress of being in a world of pain is too great. Madness is an escape from anguish. But there is an order in the disorder that can permit healing, if only it can be found.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“In all conflicts between groups, there are three elements. One: the certitude that our group is morally superior, possibly even chosen by God. All others should follow our example or be at our service. In order to bring peace to the world, we have to impose our set of beliefs upon others, through manipulation, force, and fear, if necessary. Two: a refusal or incapacity to see or admit to any possible errors or faults in our group. The undeniable nature of our own goodness makes us think we are infallible; there can be no wrong in us. Three: a refusal to believe that any other group possesses truth or can contribute anything of value. At best, others may be regarded as ignorant, unenlightened, and possessing only half—truths; at worst, they are seen as destructive, dangerous, and possessed by evil spirits: they need to be overpowered for the good of humanity. Society and cultures are, then, divided into the “good” and the “bad”; the good attributing to themselves the mission to save, to heal, to bring peace to a wicked world, according to their own terms and under their controlling power. Such is the story of all civilizations through the ages as they spread over the earth by invading and colonizing. Differences must be suppressed; “savages” must be civilized. We must prove by all possible means that our culture, our power, our knowledge, and our technology are the best, that our gods are the only gods! This is not just the story of civilizations but also of all wars of religion, inquisitions, censorships, dictatorships; all things, in short, that are ideologies. An ideology is a set of ideas translated into a set of values. Because they are held to be absolutely true, these ideas and values need to be imposed on others if they are not readily accepted. A political system, a school of psychology, and a philosophy of economics can all be ideologies. Even a place of work can be an ideology. Religious sub—groups, sects, are based upon ideological principles. Religions themselves can become ideologies. And ideologues, by their nature, are not open to new ideas or even to debate; they refuse to accept or listen to anyone else’s reality. They refuse to admit any possibility of error or even criticism of their system; they are closed up in their set of ideas, theories, and values. We human beings have a great facility for living illusions, for protecting our self—image with power, for justifying it all by thinking we are the favoured ones of God.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“A group is the manifestation of this need to belong. A group can, however, close in on itself, believing that it is superior to others. But my vision is that belonging should be at the heart of a fundamental discovery: that we all belong to a common humanity, the human race. We may be rooted in a specific family and culture but we come to this earth to open up to others, to serve them and receive the gifts they bring to us, as well as to all of humanity.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Children can then quickly discover that there is such a thing called truth; that they are not living in a chaotic world that is hypocritical, filled with only lies and pretense. Parents who admit to their children that they have been unjustly angry and ask for forgiveness are naming something: they are admitting that they are not perfect. Words and life can come together: the word can indeed become flesh.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“And here, for me, is another profound truth: understanding, as well as truth, comes not only from the intellect but also from the body. When we begin to listen to our bodies, we begin to listen to reality through our own experiences; we begin to trust our intuition, our hearts. The truth is also in the “earth” of our own bodies. So it is a question of moving from theories we have learned to listening to the reality that is in and around us. Truth flows from the earth. This is not to deny the truth that flows from teachers, from books, from tradition, from our ancestors, and from religious faith. But the two must come together. Truth from the sky must be confirmed and strengthened by truth from the earth. We must learn to listen and then to communicate.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Communion is at the heart of the mystery of our humanity. It means accepting the presence of another inside oneself, as well as accepting the reciprocal call to enter into another. Communion, which implies the security and insecurity of trust, is a constant struggle against all the powers of fear and selfishness in us, as well as the seemingly resilient human need to control another person. To a certain extent we lose control in our own lives when we are open to others. Communion of hearts is a beautiful but also a dangerous thing. Beautiful because it is a new form of liberation; it brings a new joy because we are no longer alone. We are close even if we are far away. Dangerous because letting down our inner barriers means that we can be easily hurt. Communion makes us vulnerable.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Weakness, recognized, accepted, and offered, is at the heart of belonging, so it is at the heart of communion with another.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“The fear of failure, of feeling helpless and unable to cope, had been built up in me ever since my childhood. I had to be a success. I had to prove my worth. I had to be right. This need to succeed and to be accepted, even admired by my parents and by those whom I considered my “superiors,” was a strong motivating force in me and is a motivation at the heart of many human endeavours.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“That is the fundamental question; how to trust that she has a heart and that she can, little by little, receive love, be transformed by love, and then give love.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Her screams were not only a sign of her inner brokenness, darkness, and anguish but also a cry for help. Difficult as it is for us to accept and come to terms with this idea, I believe that every act of violence is also a message that needs to be understood. Violence should not be answered just by greater violence but by real understanding. We must ask: where is the violence coming from? What is its meaning?”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Communion is the to—and—fro of love. It is the trust that bonds us together, children with their parents, a sick person with a nurse, a child with a teacher, a husband with a wife, friends together, people with a common task. It is the trust that comes from the intuitive knowledge that we are safe in the hands of another and that we can be open and vulnerable, one to another. Communion is not static; it is an evolving reality. Trust is continually called to grow and to deepen, or it is wounded and diminishes. It is a trust that the other will not possess or crush you but rejoices in your gifts and calls you to growth and to freedom. Such a trust calls forth trust in yourself.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“The next chapter is about belonging: the essential need we have to be and to share with others. The human heart is a place of freedom. We can be obliged to follow the law but not to love, because “true love casts out fear.” Our society grows in justice and peace as we allow energies of love and concern for all to rise up in ourselves.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“The illusion of being superior engenders the need to prove it; and so oppression is born. A bishop in Africa told me that, even though there were few Christians in the area, he had built his cathedral bigger than the local mosque. All this to prove that Christianity was a better, more powerful religion than Islam. So we build walls around our group and cultivate our certitudes. Prejudice grows on such walls. How did we, the human race, get to this position where we judge it natural not just to band ourselves into groups, but to set ourselves group against group, neighbour against neighbour, in order to establish some ephemeral sense of superiority? One of the fundamental issues for people to examine is how to break down these walls that separate us one from another; how to open up one to another; how to create trust and places of dialogue.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Instinctively, all children learn to hide their terrible feelings behind inner walls, the shadowy areas of their being. All the disorder and darkness of their lives can be buried there. They then throw themselves into their lives, into the search for approbation, into self—fulfillment, into dreams and illusions. Hurts and pain can transform into the energy that pushes children forward. Such children can then become individuals protected by the barriers they had to build around their vulnerable, wounded hearts.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“It was loneliness and insecurity that had brought Claudia to the chaos of madness. It was community, love, and friendship that finally brought her inner peace. This movement from chaos to inner peace, from self—hate to self—trust, began when Claudia realized that she was loved.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Children like Claudia, children who flee from relationships into a world of their own and who are unable to communicate verbally, need to be understood in a special way. It takes time and a great deal of attention, as well as wisdom and help from professionals, in order to learn how to interpret their cries and their body language which reveal the desires and needs they cannot name.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Belonging is important for our growth to independence; even further, it is important for our growth to inner freedom and maturity. It is only through belonging that we can break out of the shell of individualism and self-centredness that both protects and isolates us.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“Those who are weak have great difficulty finding their place in our society. The image of the ideal human as powerful and capable disenfranchises the old, the sick, the less-abled. For me, society must, by definition, be inclusive of the needs and gifts of all its members. How can we lay claim to making an open and friendly society where human rights are respected and fostered when, by the values we teach and foster, we systematically exclude segments of our population? I believe that those we most often exclude from the normal life of society, people with disabilities, have profound lessons to teach us. When we do include them, they add richly to our lives and add immensely to our world.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“The Claudias also need laughter and play, they need people who will celebrate life with them and manifest their joy of being with them. It was this joy and the gentle presence of Nadine and the others in Suyapa that gradually weakened Claudia’s great walls of defence. Little by little, she began to trust that she was not bad, but capable of loving and being loved.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
“In order for Claudia to grow peacefully towards womanhood, she needed to gradually accept not only her physical blindness but also her inner depression and anger, the scars, even open wounds, that flowed from her experience of rejection and lack of love and understanding during the years in the asylum. It was important that Claudia discover her shadow areas, even if she could not name them, and that she learn that it was acceptable to be less than perfect. It was for Nadine to show Claudia that we are all subject to a higher, more profound law, one that we do not make but which is given to us, hidden in the heart of every human being, to reveal that life is all about growth and that it is possible for each one of us to evolve out of darkness and chaos into light and into a new order of love. Claudia’s growth was subject then to Nadine’s growth. How could Nadine accept Claudia in all her chaos or madness if Nadine refused to accept the chaotic aspects and shadow areas in her own life? How could she trust in Claudia’s growth if she did not trust in her own growth? In the case of Claudia, there was a place where much of this spiritual struggle and growth occured: in prayer.”
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human