In light of the US election results I found myself profoundly sad. Sad because bigotry had exploded in that country over the months we watched the forerunners state their claims. Hatred and exclusion based or race, or gender, or religion, or socio-economic status seemed to rise to super-star status. So how can we possibly thrive as a human race when this exists on our planet, let alone, from one of the most powerful countries that inhabit it?
While driving to a destination by myself, I fortuitously turned on the radio station to hear a talk by Karen Armstrong, my favourite author of books on comparative religion. As it would happen, she was discussing “The Golden Rule” which has been reiterated by most prophets over time. The rule as I understood it for most of my life states that we should do to others as we wish to be done to us. In other words, treat others as you wish to be treated.
Armstrong eloquently pointed out in her discussion that the Golden Rule was stated by Confucius five centuries before Jesus, and then later by others, who taught similar words. Confucius however, stated the rule to mean that one must not impose on others what they do not wish for themselves. Now this turns the rule on its head for me.
Not only does the Golden Rule apply to positive behaviour, it applies equally to negative behaviour as well. If I wish to be treated kindly, I must be kind. If I wish to be treated fairly, I must be fair. On the other side of the coin, if I don’t like people demanding I adopt their belief system then I should let others believe as they wish. If I don’t like people stereotyping me by culture or race then I should treat all others on their own merit and not stereotype them. Herein, the Golden Rule covers much more ground.
Armstrong went further to say that we can reflect back on those things that have hurt us and upon experiencing these we will then not do that to others. Perhaps this is the most powerful way to use the Golden Rule because we have direct experience on what has hurt us and what we do not wish to re-experience. It’s here that we can reflect back from the pains we have felt allowing us to reflect on what hurt us and adjust it accordingly. If someone cheated me in the past and it hurt me deeply then I now know how it will feel in another and I must not impose that which I do not wish to re-experience myself. Similarly, if someone has spread untruths about me and it caused emotional pain then I can adjust my behaviour to not cause similar pain in them. We all stand in direct experience as the recipient of negative behaviour and can now react accordingly.
Reflecting on The Golden Rule as Armstrong so powerfully explained on my journey in the car has strongly transformed the rule for me. It brought to light the wholeness of that rule and how it covers the repercussions of all behaviour; those I wish to have for myself and those I do not wish to have for myself and others. Since I have no control over the behaviour of others in any way, I can empower myself with behaviour I wish to share with the world and that which I do not wish to ever see. I aspire for you all good things, now and in every day to come, no matter which country you live in. No matter what religion or spiritual belief system you adopt. No matter what gender, age, sexual-orientation or socio-economic bracket you are in. I wish for you all things I wish for myself in every way possible.
Here’s going forward with The Golden Rule ever more golden.
Teresa L. DeCicco, PhD, is the author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses: The Emergence of a Spiritual Being” and “The Giant Compass: Navigating The Life of Your Dreams” You can see more of her work at Teresa DeCicco Website