I don’t believe in God, so, as an academic pursuit, the fallibility of man has always been vastly more interesting to me than the proposed infallibility of God. As a result, I have a soft spot for songs that grapple with crises of faith—As Cities Burn has had their fair share of entries on that list, most notably “Timothy,” but other bands like Thrice and Underoath have had some quality ones as well.
Considered in its totality, I’m not entirely sure that “These Hands,” the title track of the 2014 EP from Hearts Like Lions, belongs on that list. But for a moment, at least, it definitely does. During the chorus of an otherwise praise-type song—sample lyrics include “we’re all the same in his eyes” and “these hands were made for love”—lead singer Stephen Danny Ramos delivers a potent bit of doubt:
these hands were made for goodness / but I’ve done so much / I’ve done so much destruction / so much destruction
It’s the lyrical repetition, I think, combined with Ramos’ powerful delivery, that imparts such sincerity to those lines, that gives heart to his battle to rectify the difference between what he believes and what he is. The result is relatable, even for an atheist like me. Because you don’t have to believe in God to believe that we ought to strive to do good and to see that we often fail in that striving. But past failure doesn’t preclude future success, whether or not a divine being is there to pass judgment on your progress.
I’ve come to think that “These Hands” is a great song. That echoing guitar riff gets stuck in my head, the staccato bass line pulses with life, and Ramos delivers the goods, especially in the final chorus. Those elements kept me coming back to “These Hands,” but, now that I’m here, I keep hearing Ramos wailing “I’ve done so much destruction” and thinking about how wonderful it is that we make mistakes. And that we can learn and grow from them; that’s the gift of fallibility.