The Importance of the Golden Rule

I’m assuming we’ve all heard The Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the origin of which is usually credited to Leviticus 19:18 and the words of the Lord in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31; also known as The Great Commandment.

For people who like techie speak, The Golden Rule represents the ethic of reciprocity. And every major religion, including some not so major, recognize this maxim as words to the wise. Most parents use it as a way to teach children empathy and how to treat others.

I’m Libertarian enough to believe the Golden Rule applies to the role of government, in the sense that individuals have the right to do whatever they wish with their own life, liberty, and property, but the line is drawn at the life, liberty, and property of others.

We’ve heard it so often and take it all so for granted it’s become a cliché.

I was taught The Golden Rule when I was a child, but unfortunately, I don’t think much of it stuck. Or should I say I practiced it instinctively as an aspect of simple self-preservation. However, after receiving Christ I felt a compelling need to embody the love and compassion that Jesus showed to those around Him.

As with anything that doesn’t come naturally, it took practice for it to become a natural part of my mental and spiritual processes. But the idea wasn’t precious to me until I had children—then I realized how important it was for me to purposefully exercise The Great Commandment. I began to understand I wasn’t just a parent. I was now a role model.

Scary thought. Humbling thought. And talk about motivation.

As an introvert, this was especially difficult. I had to force myself to leave my comfort zone of shy self-absorption, and engage with others in more meaningful ways. I started small—very small—just by making eye contact and smiling.

Might sound like nothing to you, but for me, it was a pretty big deal.

It took a few years before I developed a habit of open-faced friendliness, speaking words of kindness, looking for small ways to be helpful. The more I practiced, the more instinctive it became. Eventually I was comfortable enough to actively look for ways to connect with people.

Isn’t that something we all desire? A connection?

So at the store I’ll watch for someone shorter than I am—which at 5’3” is saying something—reaching for something on a high shelf. Speak encouraging words to the young mother struggling with a couple of rambunctious kids. Say a heartfelt “Thank you” to the weary cashier and the bored-looking bagboy. Help an eldery or disabled person put groceries in their car. In every place I ask myself, “is there something I can do or say to show them that someone else notices, someone else cares?”

Don’t we all respond to genuine concern and compassion?

We can show our kids very early on how to be a blessing to others just by smiling and being pleasant. They will learn how exercising empathy brings joy and hope to others, but also to ourselves. When we are being our best selves according to God’s design and example, we increase our chances of making connections and being a true witness.

As our children see us act and react, they are learning valuable lessons, and these tiny, crucial teaching moments have eternal impact. The Golden Rule and The Great Commandment are not cliché, but simple and powerful marks of obedience and love.

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There are 2 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that the way out of our current morass of argument and personal attacks is the simple proposition that we ought to take seriously:

"Is it right that I am voting to tax my neighbors so I can have my <insert item here>?"

That item could be a Pell grant for our kids, our hybrid car, our child tax credits, our daycare tax credits, our solar panels, funding for Planned Parenthood...we could wind down the budget QUICKLY if the middle and upper classes simply said "we are not going to stand for taxing our poor and lower middle class neighbors so we can have these things."

But to what Susan actually wrote, it's generally a pleasure to do things like helping someone in the grocery store, or push a disabled vehicle out of the flow of traffic.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thank you, Susan, for this straightforward reminded to make the Golden Rule a habit.  People who are introverted can obey the Golden Rule, too, as you demonstrate.

Good job.

"The Midrash Detective"

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