The humanities are not just an adornment but are essential to our spiritual lives, writes Dr. Handley. He suggests that neither religion nor the humanities can have the greatest impact in our lives without three crucial ingredients: criticism, compassion, and charity.
Criticism is the means by which we protect ourselves from deception and by which we strengthen our autonomy as moral agents. In critical thinking, we distance ourselves from an experience or idea enough to assess its value and interpret its meaning.
Compassion allows us to feel what others feel and see through another’s eyes, which prevents our critical judgment from becoming centripetal and self-reinforcing. Without compassion, we will end up talking only to those we already like or identify with and may become cynical or mistrusting of others.
Charity is the means by which we learn to live with the tension between criticism and compassion. It holds differences together in a meaningful relationship without collapsing those differences. It helps us not to be driven by emotion, to weigh things in the balance, and it recognizes that there is a gap between our thoughts and God’s that we must seek to overcome by a perpetual search for more truth.
This lecture was presented on November 11, 2015, as part of the BYU Faculty Center’s “My Journey as a Scholar of Faith” series.