The writers of the Declaration of Independence included the following well-known phrase in their document: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” At the time of its writing, this was an amazing assertion. No other nation in history had been founded on such an expansive vision of human rights. It was a good start at defining human rights, but we should recognize that it was just that – a start. It did not attempt to define all of our human rights, but stated that “among these” are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, leaving open the possibility for others.
In 1791, the Bill of Rights was added to the constitution. In 1948, the United Nations adopted an expanded list of human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Another person who helped to expand the definition of human rights was Marshal Rosenberg, founder of The Center for Nonviolent Communication, who listed seven Universal Needs. A universal need is akin to a human right. We have a right to have our universal human needs respected and honored. According to Rosenberg, our universal needs are:
Connection: acceptance; affection; appreciation; belonging; cooperation; communication; closeness; community; companionship; compassion; consistency; contribution; empathy; inclusion; intimacy; love; mutuality; nurturing; respect/self-respect; safety; security; stability; support; to know and be known; to see and be seen; to understand and be understood; trust; warmth
Honesty: authenticity; integrity; presence
Play: joy; humor
Peace: beauty; communion; ease; equality; harmony; inspiration; order
Physical Well-being: air; food; movement/exercise; rest/sleep; sexual expression; safety; shelter; touch; water
Meaning: awareness; celebration of life; challenge; clarity; competence; consciousness; contribution; creativity; discovery; efficacy; effectiveness; growth; hope; learning; mourning;
participation; purpose; self-expression; stimulation;
to matter; understanding
Autonomy: choice; freedom; independence; space; spontaneity
I like Rosenberg’s list of universal needs and look forward to the day when they are honored by all the peoples of the world. One thing that all lists of human rights hold in common is that they are intended for all people, not just the rich and powerful. God our Creator has endowed all people with these rights, whether they are male or female, rich or poor, young or old. Thinking in terms of human rights helps us to expand our vision from an individualistic, narrow-minded point of view to an ability to embrace everyone as our brothers and sisters.
I was impressed by the way the members of Immanuel Church opened their hearts to our friends from Connecticut who spent a week with us in June. This was a great example of expanding our vision and opening our hearts as we widen our welcome. When we open our hearts and respect the rights of others, especially those who are different from us, we are doing what Jesus would have us do.
As we celebrate the 4th of July, let us remember that we celebrate not only a declaration of independence, but more important, we celebrate the respect for human rights upon which that declaration is based.
Blessings and Peace,