I’ve seen the phrase “faith in humanity restored” attached to stories about random acts of kindness. Readers are encouraged to hear of people going out of their way to help, simply out of compassion for their fellow man.
These stories are infrequent, however, because the 24-hour news cycle is fueled by bad news and because coverage of altruistic acts is a rarity. But these uplifting stories have a tendency to misplace people’s hope. It shouldn’t be in their “do-good” neighbor but, rather, in the source of the virtues that spurred the neighbor to do good in the first place.
Some may consider “faith in humanity restored” a harmless phrase. But I have a high standard for words. I believe when someone says something like this, it is the outworking of the beliefs of their heart, whether or not they realize the full implications of the phrase.
Firstly, faith has religious overtones but also refers to having confidence in someone or something. To place one’s faith in the human race is to build a house on quicksand.
I believe the Bible gives an accurate account of human nature. At their core, humanity is depraved and self-serving. Not every worldview has the same concept; they might consider humans morally neutral or even good at heart. But these worldviews ignore the reality I see in the world and in myself.
History’s most infamous may have committed sins with more widespread consequences but how many of us have destroyed relationships with our own broken promises and deceit? How many times have our choices not been selfish, wanting to maintain a reputation, shifting blame to protect ourselves, or doing what makes us happy in spite of its effect on others?
Evil, whether genocide or gossip, has a singular source and we are all eager to welcome it into the world when we think it’s what’s good for us. If human nature is as the Bible defines it, then placing one’s “faith in humanity” is a setup for continual disappointment.
A person with faith in humanity leaves their wallet out on the table in the food court when they run to pick up their order. They trust that those they supervise are always on task. They know everyone on the road is diligently paying attention to traffic. A person who trusts mankind implicitly has no reason to question their spouse’s actions because their spouse is doing what is in the best interest of the family at all times.
Next, if something is restored it means it was once damaged. That something was initially a certain way – it was full and unstained. Then it was broken. It’s now been rebuilt as if the damage never occurred. But it’s naïve to consider the thing as good as new.
A person who has been wounded once won’t be fooled twice. They take Rafiki’s wisdom from The Lion King. “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”
Someone who had their wallet stolen in the food court will carry their new wallet with them when they pick up their order. Someone who was in a car accident becomes a defensive driver, wanting to prevent another accident. Anyone who does otherwise is foolish for giving people the benefit of the doubt.
The Bible teaches me of only one person who will never fail me, on whom I can base my faith, my hope, and all my trust. I believe I can confidently build on Jesus, a foundation more solid than concrete. I want to be a person of character. But if someone sees me doing something that makes them think “Faith in humanity restored”, I want to tell them how Jesus authored the virtues that make the random act of kindness good and where my faith ultimately lies.