by Elaine & Stephen Lindridge.
The haunting (and frustratingly memorable) song “Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man has been spinning around my head for weeks now. Take a moment to watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3wKzyIN1yk
The song’s statements and questions seem to echo a sentiment that is very much prevalent in today’s world. Rory Graham (AKA Rag’n’Bone Man) laments the human condition and his inability as a flawed person to satisfy everyone’s needs.
Some people think I can solve them
Lord heavens above
I’m only human after all, I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
The song talks of being asked questions that no one is qualified to answer, hence the line:
I’m no prophet or messiah
Should go looking somewhere higher
Running through the song is the regularly repeated answer:
I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Without doubt we are flawed, we have our failings and limitations. This blog in no way disputes that. But how often have we heard the reply “I’m only human” in response to a mistake or failure? Using our humanity as an excuse for our inadequacies, limitations, and sometimes our downright rebellion to The Way. I wonder if the explanation that our humanity is that which restricts us from reaching our full potential is simply an excuse? A self-justifying apology?
The greatest ever example of a human life lived well and to potential is obviously the life of Jesus Christ. So what did Jesus do with his humanity? As Philippians 2:1-11 reminds us, Jesus was fully human, yet still able to be “obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
When faced with the opportunity to feed more than 5000, his response was not, “I’m only human.” Nor was “I’m only human” his response to Jairus’ Daughter, the man with the withered hand, the blind, the deaf or the ten lepers. When Jesus saw the needs of those treated unjustly, the poor and marginalised, not once did he turn his head and mutter the excuse “I’m only human.”
As we look at the life of Jesus Christ it begs the question, “If Jesus was fully human, should he not then be the divine example of all that we as human beings aspire to be and do?” Not in some abstract way, nor in a word for word, act for act mimicry. But rather in the wholeness of a life well lived, without excuse, pushing limitations and barriers that would restrict.
It is easy to see the flaws in humanity whilst forgetting that God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them…and it was very good. (Genesis 1:27-32)
As beings made in the image of God, sharing our humanity with Jesus, we have the potential therefore to follow the profound example of what humanity can and should be in the life of Jesus.
Therefore as followers of Jesus, could the refrain “I’m only human” become an aspirational statement rather than an excuse? Or perhaps even more so, can we look at great human acts and relish the acknowledgement of what humanity can achieve? Remembering always that the achievements are only because of the gift of Godself in the creation of humanity.
Thus turning the catchphrase from negative to positive. From “only” human to “being” human. To the woman who campaigns against unjust benefit sanctions we say “she’s being human.” To the artist who paints a picture that stirs the deepest of unknown emotions we say “he’s being human.” To the busy pastor whose very being creates the safe environment to bare ones soul we say “he’s being human.” To the friend who continues to put one foot after another when the journey of life is splattered with crisis after crisis we say, “look at her, she’s being human.” Seeing the God-given gift of humanity within the positive spotlight of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Never boasting in our humanity with a pride in our own abilities or accomplishments, but with an acknowledgement of the gift we have been given. Offering our deepest gratitude to the one who became fully human and was tested in every way (Hebrews 4:15) yet lived an exemplary life.
The irony of the name of the artist should not escape us. In days gone by the rag’n’bone man would collect that which was discarded and deemed of no value and take it to be recycled. The redemptive act of God takes us, even if the world, or ourselves would view us as worthless, and makes all things new. Perhaps the Rag’n’Bone Man should have the final words….but let’s read them with hope…
Take a look in the mirror
And what do you see
Do you see it clearer?
In what you believe
‘Cause I’m only human after all
You’re only human after all
5 thoughts on “I’m only human”
Psalm 8 came to mind, as I read your words:
‘What are human beings that You are mindful of them,
mortals that You care for them?
Yet You have made them just a little lower than Yourself (or the angels)
and crowned them with glory and honour…’
Wonder if we’ve ever meditated upon those words and personalised them:
‘You have made ME / US just a little lower than the angels,
and You have crowned ME / US with glory and honour…’
Wow. Humbling and awesome.
Thanks for your thoughts today, Elaine and Stephen
Thanks Steve and Elaine. A very helpful piece. I too have been challenged by the song. I’m intrigued by your quoting of Genesis 1:27-32. I’ve been pondering recently the idea of original goodness and wondering if Augustine et al have something to answer for in their emphasis on original sin. I’m not for a second denying human sinfulness or our need of salvation but I do wonder if we need a stronger doctrine of creation and a wider exploration of goodness.
Thank you for this reminder that we are so often self limiting forgetting that we too have the same resources that Jesus had to enable us to participate fully in his life. A challenge for sure
Thank you Elaine and Stephen for this thought-provoking post. For me it brought to mind the lines from a song by The Killers ‘And I’m on my knees looking for the answers; are we human or are we dancers?’
Of course for those who believe in original sin we are indeed ‘only human’ and therefore inferior, unworthy, insignificant and in need of ‘saving’.
But for those of us who have overcome that barrier, with the help of some wonderful scholars such as Fr. Richard Rohr and Brian D. McClaren, we are indeed ‘dancers’ – all wonderfully made in the image of God and all participating in ‘The Divine Dance’ which is the eternal, creative flow of God’s life-giving energy force.
This song has been playing around my mind too. The words challenge me to not think I can truly help anyone beyond surface help, because I am only human. Complete and lasting help can only come from Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah.
How we can help others is point them towards the Great Healer.