Man’s Inhumanity To Man…..

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Man was made to mourn: A Dirge

BurnsMany and sharp the num’rous ills Inwoven with our frame! More pointed still we make ourselves Regret, remorse, and shame! And man, whose heav’n-erected face The smiles of love adorn, – Man’s inhumanity to man Makes countless thousands mourn!   By Robert Burns  1784

I always wondered where the phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man” came from. I didn’t realize it is generally attributed to Robert Burns. I’m not sure what the difference between a poem and a dirge is? They look pretty much the same to me.

Wikipedia, as usual, has several other references for this phrase:

  • “More inhumanity (to man) has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.” Samuel von Pufendorf, 1673.
  • Man’s inhumanity (towards man) comes from within, due to the lack of cardinal virtues.” An unknown Catholic Priest, date unknown.
  • “There is only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one’s own life, to exemplify man’s humanity to man.” Alan Paton.
  • “The inhumanity of man toward man is our greatest sin.” Ellen G. White, 1895.
  • “Man’s inhumanity to man is equaled only by man’s inhumanity to himself.” Edmund Bergler, 1949.
  • “Man’s inhumanity to his brother is Our greatest sorrow.” – Our Lady, October 2, 1970
  • “Man’s inhumanity to man crosses continents and decades.” Anthony Venutolo, 2009.
  • “Why do we hunt and persecute each other? Why is our world so full of man’s infamous inhumanity to man – and to woman?” Riane Eissler, 1987
  • More man’s inhumanity to man has been done in the name of religion than any other cause.” Author unknown, circa 1929.
  • “Man’s inhumanity to man shows only the weakness of the soul.” Unknown

I find myself uttering this phrase on a regular basis lately. There has just been so much tragedy in the world in my lifetime. Now people are saying that the latest school massacre is stating to cool down already so they doubt that any new gun regulations will be implemented!

Being a firm believer of the Quaker phrase of “the light of God in all of us” I find it unfathomable that some seem to almost totally extinguish the light within themselves. Being that God gave man free will it is our choice as to whether we turn that light into a full-blown flame or just let it languish within us.  Many of the references above are spiritual in nature so I’m sure that I am not the only one who thinks this way.

It just saddens me to my very core how cruelly we sometimes treat each other. It is indeed our greatest sin, our lack of cardinal virtues, our inhumanity, our greatest sorrow,  a weakness in our soul, and definitely should make us all mourn. God gave us life so that we could love one another and take care of one another and to praise him.

What happened?????

Why aren’t our spiritual leaders talking about man’s inhumanity instead of things like if Mary was a virgin, if full immersion is the only way to baptize, whether we are saved by grace or something else, and list goes on and on…..

7 thoughts on “Man’s Inhumanity To Man…..

  1. From the very beginning of time RJ, starting with Cain and Abel. It is the part of the human condition I don’t know that I’ll ever understand. As I go further with my own spiritual journey, I better understand how I can evolve in my own life, while also understanding I have no power over how others evolve in their lives.

    The only answer I have ever found to man’s inhumanity is love. Countering hatred with anything else only escalates the hatred. The only action that can diminish hatred over time is love. When situations arise that demand action, we must absolutely act, but we must return to a position of love as soon as possible afterward.

    I’m not as pessimistic as you are about gun safety changes. I see that the first set of proposals will be handed off shortly to the president from Mr. Biden. The recent shooting in Taft, CA where one person was killed, vs. dozens or hundreds, because the shooter was NOT using an assault style rifle is more evidence in my opinion on why these changes are necessary, and I believe, will be made.


  2. Janette, I left the pews a long time ago, and it is no reflection on my continued spiritual journey. As I moved further into adulthood, I found little to reflect on that would assist me to move down my own path of understanding. Rather, I found a lot of finger pointing about what ‘other’ places of worship were doing wrong, and assertions that there was but one way to worship. Neither rang true to me, so I stopped visiting.

    My own journey, and the journey of many others I know, continues privately in our own homes, with readings and webcasts of authors and speakers we find inspirational.


  3. Nice dialog going on here while I have been at the soup kitchen. Tamara, thanks for your thoughts. You are certainly not alone in the “spiritual but not religious” category. Even though I blog every other day over at I am not tying myself down to any one version of Christ anymore. As you say there are just too many strings attached to most things religious to make them meaningful to me. But I am hopeful that the emergent movement now taking place will take much of the baggage out of being religious. We should not be arguing about how to baptize, what form the Lord’s supper should take, or whether someone was a virgin or not. We should be concentrating on the lessons taught us by Christ himself.

    Yeah, I am aware that the first murder took place in the second generation of mankind according to some of the legend. I also know that there is such a thing as real evil in this world. There is no other way to explain some of the worst atrocities that have taken place. My personal journey through spirituality tries to concentrate on being a follower instead of just believing certain things I am told to believe.


  4. My “religion” has took a back seat to spirituality many, many moons ago. I was fortunate to be raised with the idea that religion can be the foundation and not the house.
    An informed conscience does not mean that “they” know best. It is one that says that you take what you learn and lean it on your heart- reason and right. Religion is easy to talk against—but if you plan on helping the next generation with their moral structure–then a foundation should be laid—for it is moral people whom you quote–most of them have foundations in some sort of religion. Not a whole lot of “moral” teaching going on in regular society—believe me.
    If one believes a religion depend on men, then you will always be disappointed.


  5. One thing I do believe, RJ, is that acts of horror rarely spring up out of nowhere. They generally follow a series of smaller, horrible acts that went unchecked. My charge as a spiritual being, I believe, is to take a stand against acts that propagate inhumanity as soon as I realize they are occurring. On my own I may not be able to stop them, but I’m compelled to do what I can to exhibit an opposing positive energy to counter their negative energy, and to hopefully put the perpetrator and those ‘listening’ on notice that I, at least am opposed.

    I think about the holocaust at times, and I wonder what I would have done as a non-Jew living in a Nazi controlled country. I would like to think I would have taken a stand against Hitler and his atrocities in the very, very beginning when they were just small ripples of injustice. I would like to think I would have eventually been willing to give up my life rather than roll over and acquiesce to what eventually transpired. I can only surmise, of course, but I do know there is a lion inside of me that emerges when faced with crisis. I like knowing I have that lion inside of me, and that I can count on it when the chips are down.

    Sorry to get so serious, but this is something I actually do ponder, and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss it rationally.


  6. Some nice heavy thinking here; I love it. Like you say Tamara it is nice to be able to ponder these types of things without harsh words flowing back and forth. You call your core “a lion inside”, I along with my Quaker friends call it the “light of God in all of us”. I think we are talking about the same thing.

    The Nazi Germany stands seem easy to talk about in the abstract but I’m sure they were not easy for those Germans who saw it happening around them. As you say Tamara the time to take action is when it is ripples and not to wait for the waves. One of the ways I do that is with regular support of “Friends Committee on National Legislation” (FCNL) which is a Quaker lobby (not all lobbies are the enemy). They keep the our military positions and standing in front of as many people as possible. They and people like them are one small way people like you and me can rail against the ripples in life.

    Thanks for all the heartfelt words you two. That is what I intended this blog to be about…


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