To err is human; to forgive, divine
What's the meaning of the phrase 'To err is human'?
A proverb expressing the idea that forgiveness is a worthy response to human failings.
What's the origin of the phrase 'To err is human'?
The proverbial phrase 'To err is human' is often heard in its fuller form 'To err is human; to forgive, divine.'. This makes sense of the notion that the originator, the English poet Alexander Pope, was trying to convey. In the poem An Essay on Criticism, Part II , 1711. Pope explains that, while anyone can make a mistake, we should aspire to do as God does, that is, show mercy and forgive sinners:
Ah ne'er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast,
Nor in the Critick let the Man be lost!
Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join;
To err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine.
Note that Pope's original wording uses the word 'humane' rather than, as it is now usually spelled, 'human'. This wasn't a spelling mistake, nor have we misunderstood the poet's meaning, just that 'humane' was the accepted spelling of 'human' in the early 18th century.