The Humane Experience

A healing conversation about kindness and cruelty


Human beings have the remarkable ability to learn from each other through sharing experiences. The Humane Experience conversation offers an opportunity for one to take a little time to reflect upon our humane relationship with others and ourselves. In these days of political polarization and extremism, people are looking for ways to help “turn down the temperature” and to have a bit more of the gentleness and goodness that can come with being human.

Life is a struggle. We have to make a living, rear families, and take care of family members and sometimes friends or neighbors, and ourselves. COVID has disrupted our daily patterns and we, as a society, are still recovering.

But there is hope and that hope is articulated in the “e” found in the word humane. Metaphorically, this “e” represents the energy we see exhibited when there is a tragedy and people, in large numbers, respond positively with lovingkindness, and direct action in addressing the problem. But that “e” can also be found in the little actions in our day-to-day lives. Often unnoticed, these simple humane actions form the bedrock of civil and civilized society; and this shared comity is best expressed by the word “empathy.” That is, empathy towards others and ourselves.

The Humane Experience is a directed or facilitated in-person or virtual group, confidential conversation where participants review a set of common definitions (Merriam-Webster) for the keywords: Humane, Humaneness, Kind, Kindness, Cruel and Cruelty.

After the keywords have been reviewed and discussed generally, participants remember experiences which involved kindness and cruelty. Participants then share the experiences they had.

After the experiences have been shared, participants are asked to relate how their experience is similar to or different from the other participants.

Participants complete the Humaneness Spectrum Survey.

Review Definitions

being cruel to oneselfGiving CrueltyReceiving CrueltyWitnessing CrueltyBeing Kind to OneselfGiving KindnessReceiving KindnessWitnessing Kindness

No two people will share the exact understanding of a word’s meaning simply because our experiences, enabled through our individual thoughts, feelings, actions and awareness, are different.

After reviewing the keywords: Humane, Humaneness, Kind, Kindness, Cruel, and Cruelty, participants agree to accept these definitions as a common baseline for the group’s understanding in The Humane Experience conversation.

A brief discussion of each of the topic areas is offered to help initiate or stimulate conversation.

Remember Experiences

Experience consists of four elements: Thoughts, Feelings, Actions and Awareness. Experience is like a four-legged chair. The four legs support the chair in the same way that thoughts, feelings, actions awareness make up one’s experience with varying intensities.

Participants take a few minutes to remember kind and cruel experiences, using the provided Memory Sheets, in PDF format, to remember what they were doing, thinking about, feeling and aware of in their experiences involving kindness or cruelty.

The Memory Sheets offer the opportunity to jot down a few notes about the experience they are remembering in terms of what one was:

  • doing,
  • thinking about,
  • feeling, and
  • aware of.

These sheets can be printed out or filled out on one’s computer.

Click here to download Adobe Acrobat Reader to read, fill out online, or download the Memory Sheets.


Share Experiences

Participants then recount the following experiences relating to:

  • Witnessing kindness and cruelty towards another;
  • Being the recipient of kindness and cruelty;
  • Being kind and cruel towards another; and
  • Being kind and cruel to ourselves.

Review Experiences

Group participants explore/discover how the individually-recounted experiences have similarities and differences.

Participants are then asked to share with the group what they learned or discovered from taking part in The Humane Experience session relating to the aspect of kindness or cruelty just discussed.

Humaneness Spectrum Survey

Click to go to the Humaneness Spectrum Survey

Humaneness is a spectrum. Some days we feel motivated to be kind; other days, less so.

After each session, participants are asked to complete the Humaneness Spectrum Survey.

The purpose of the survey is to document whether or not one has increased her/his experience/awareness of kindness and cruelty through participating in The Humane Experience.

The first set of questions relate to the frequency of kind and cruel experiences in one’s life:

  • I experienced someone being cruel towards another. (Never/Seldom/Occasionally/Regularly/Often/Always)
  • I experienced my being cruel towards another.
  • I experienced someone being cruel to me.
  • I experienced my being cruel to myself.
  • I experienced someone being kind towards another.
  • I experienced my being kind towards another.
  • I experienced someone being kind to me.
  • I experienced my being kind to myself.

The second question relates to how one sees oneself generally:

  • I am a humane person. (True/false/I Don’t Know)

The third question relates to how one sees oneself specifically:

  • If -10 is very inhumane, and +10 is very humane, where are you in the humane spectrum?