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Ten Principles of Being Human

This post shares ten important principles of being human with you. It is connected with another post I wrote about how to know if we are being mistreated, which you can read here.

To know if we are being mistreated, it seems like we must know a few basic principles about what it means to be a human being. So, in order to help us understand that better, here are Ten Principles of Being Human.[1]

One: Each of us possesses a unique view of the world.

Each of us develops a unique view of the world that is influenced by factors like our birthplace, family of origin, gender, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion (or lack thereof).

Our perspective is conditioned by the original community we grew up in. And this perspective gives us an understanding of the world that very few other people possess. (NO ONE else possesses our exact view of the world.)

Note that our unique view is conditioned by both communal and individual influences.

Two: Our unique view of the world is special and important, but it is limited.

It is crucial to remember that our unique view adds something important to the world, but it is also necessarily limited. For instance, I am a white woman who grew up in a Quaker middle-class, college-educated family in Portland, Oregon.

Because of this, I have some pretty cool insight into the world, but my view is also limited.

For instance, I don’t know what it is like to be a black woman who grew up in a wealthy family in Los Angeles or an Appalachian man who grew up in a working class family in West Virginia. I can try to understand the perspectives of these individuals and learn a great deal about their lives. But, of course, I cannot intimately understand what their life is like and the challenges they face. At least, not at the level that they understand it.

Three: No one possesses total knowledge about anything in the world.

That we have a limited perspective suggests that there is a great deal about the world that we do not understand or know. And we may never understand or know it. There is no way in my one lifetime that I can possibly learn what it is like to live life from all the unique perspectives in the world.

There is also no way, in my one lifetime, that I can learn all (or even half) of the knowledge, skills, and emotional lessons there are to learn in the world.

Four: Given our limited knowledge, some mistakes and failures are unavoidable and even encouraged. We learn, grow, and move towards greater truth through these failures.

We must constantly navigate a world about which there is so much we don’t know. And we must navigate this world with many different people about whom there is so much we don’t know or understand.

This means we are going to make a lot of mistakes and even fail a lot. We should note that this is a necessary part of what it means to be a human and to grow.


Five: Because we cannot be perfect, we must act with the intention of love.

We should not blame ourselves for unavoidable mistakes and failures. We cannot be perfect or know everything. Rather, we must act with the intention of love. And the intention of love is showing kindness, compassion, and respect to both our self and others to help everyone flourish.

Six: Acting with the intention of love requires that we respect other people and listen to their perspective.

Because there is so much we do not understand about others, the only way we can truly love them is to listen to their perspective and try to understand them. In other words, we cannot decide in abstraction what is best for another person. So, we must do it through dialogue with them, acting with the intention of love.

We must act based on the information we receive from them, remaining teachable when we make mistakes.

Seven: No one can live our life for us. Each of us must take responsibility to act with the intention of love.

No one can make the final decision for us about how we should act based on the information we receive. We are responsible for our own final decision, and we must embrace that responsibility, act with the intention of love, and learn from our mistakes.

In addition, we also cannot live other people’s lives for them. We will fail miserably if we try to do so.

Eight: The more we act with the intention of love, the more we develop moral autonomy.

As we embrace the responsibility of acting with the intention of love, the more we develop moral autonomy*. This is is the ability to act with the intention of love wisely and well in  a way that respects other people’s moral autonomy.

Nine: The more all act with moral autonomy, the more loving and powerful we make the world. This leads to moral community.

The more we act with moral autonomy, the more respect, kindness, and compassion we bring into our individual lives and our social institutions. This creates a loving and powerful moral community.

Ten: Our goal in all our relationships should be to nurture the moral autonomy of our self and other people.

Love requires us to nurture and encourage people’s moral autonomy. The opposite of encouraging moral autonomy is to encourage disintegration, mental enslavement, or chaotic functioning.

These ways of living in the world encourage the disintegration of community.


You’re a human being, and you can only live well in the world when you understand clearly what that means. Hopefully these principles help you on your way.


*When I use the term autonomy, I do not imply that a person’s moral autonomy arises in a vacuum, wholly independent of other people. Remember that at the beginning of this piece, I suggested that a person’s unique worldview arises from a unique community into which he or she is born.

This community certainly conditions a person’s view of the world, but a person’s community also inevitably influences his or her view. Therefore, moral autonomy arises through a combination of communal and individual influences. Autonomy also has individual and communal consequences.



[1] While the specific articulation of each of these principles is original with me, I am indebted to the work of Rousseau, Kant, Paulo Freire, and bell hooks for informing the ideas behind these principles.


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You might also like this post:
How to Know When You are Being Mistreated

Here’s a wonderful related post.

21 thoughts on “Ten Principles of Being Human”

  1. I love them all! Number 3 spoke to me clearly – I have forever been a seeker, so I always looked for teachers and guides. But when some teachers took up an authoritarian role trying to define life for me instead of facilitating my experience of it, that is what I felt – nobody really has all the knowledge. We are here to keep forever learning. I also agree with you – right intentions can make up for our imperfections.

    1. P, I can identify with this so much. I love your beautiful, seeker soul. And I have also had to reject authoritarian teaching to follow what I know is right and to do what the light inside me was telling me. I am sure this is one of the many reasons I am so drawn to your blog!

    1. I agree, M.B.! It actually took me a while to learn that lesson, but boy did I learn it. It was important one. I’m still learning it sometimes. So glad you enjoy the snail! I love drawing him.

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