THE VALUE AND WORTH OF HUMAN LIFE
Article by Kyle Sellnow
With much discussion in our community lately about human dignity and how we treat one another, the worth of every individual that enters the doors of Saint Michael the Archangel has been constantly on my mind and the minds of the entire faculty and staff. At SMA we strive to be family, to lift each other up at all times. It is our hope and our goal that we would be a community that stands alongside all in our SMA family and say and do things that reflect the dignity they deserve no matter what they have done. No one here desires anything but the best for every student who graces our hallways, but all of us today are up against strong forces that reduce our understanding of others to less than their real value.
Since we live in a society that, in daily life, glosses over questions about human nature, but focuses more on results, conveniences, pleasure, status, and accomplishments, it’s easy to devalue what it means to be a human. Pope St. John Paul II, along with both of his successors, was a great proponent of the universal dignity of every unique human person in themselves, regardless of their accomplishments. The beauty of human life and our inherent value is not defined by results. Though results can and should flow from our basic nature, ultimately, like anything else, we are defined by what we are, not what we do. When it comes to presenting a precise concept of human nature, secular society offers only a part of the whole.
According to the Merriam-Webster definition 1(c) of “Man,” a human is “a bipedal primate mammal (homo sapiens) that is anatomically related to the great apes but distinguished especially by notable development of the brain with a resultant capacity for articulate speech and abstract reasoning, and is the sole living representative of the hominid family” ( https://www.merriam-webster.
In the Image of God
The above definition is about as good as it gets for a secular society that lacks an immaterial mind or “soul.” Because of this, however, the definition lacks the depth of the most genuine human disposition: love. According to the ancient Greek philosophers, a definition consisted of a genus and specific difference (e.g. a unique quality found only in human nature). Aristotle, nearly 2,400 years ago, saw man as both a political or social creature and a creature having reason. The latter inspired the Latin scientific name homo sapiens which was coined by Carl von Linné in 1758. It is interesting to note, however, that the two qualities that Aristotle identifies in humans reflect the nature of God himself. First, God is a social community in Himself (Father, Son, and Spirit). Secondly, God is Reason itself and the source of reason for the whole human race. Our social and rational qualities reflect that of God himself. We truly are made in his image and likeness. We are able to understand and relate to others in the likeness of God, who is love.
From “The Value and Worth of Human Life,” by Kyle Sellnow, 2019, Love InSight, January 22, 2019. Reprinted with permission.