Do Unto Others

As a general rule, I’m very suspicious of over-simplification.  I rarely see anything in stark black and white, preferring instead to examine the various shades of grey that exist in between two opposing sides.  I think that most people and most situations are not only rather complicated, but also usually evolving in new and different ways that defy simple classification.  That being said, the older I get, the more I realize that in an increasingly complicated and angry world, there is one very simple rule that almost always applies:  treat other people the way that you want them to treat you.  (Also known as “The Golden Rule.”)

The issues that we face in our lives, both on a personal and public level, can be unbelievably complex, and often seem overwhelming.  And I don’t believe the day is ever coming when good people will always agree on everything, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned they happen to be.  But I do believe that when we are deciding how to speak to or treat another person, we can just take a minute to ask ourselves, “if this situation were reversed, how would it make me feel?  Would I like it if someone spoke that way to me?  Would I like it if someone treated me that way?”

Would we be so quick to post that snarky political meme on social media if we took a second to consider how we feel when someone makes fun our our political views?  Or worse, makes it clear that they consider everyone who voted the way we did to be either evil, an idiot, or both?  Do we like it when someone makes sweeping generalizations about our religion (or lack thereof),  especially when the generalizations don’t match what we actually think or believe?

On a more personal level, do we like it when someone vents their anger on us?  Do we appreciate it when someone (oh, so helpfully) points out our every single mistake?  Do we learn anything when someone else constantly preaches their point of view, and never once asks what we think?  Or worse, assumes that they know exactly what we think, and why, and proceeds to tell us how wrong we are?  Is it helpful when someone trivializes our fears?

People are complex beings and the opportunities for misunderstanding, hurt, and anger are staggeringly abundant.  Our lives are complicated and sometimes our problems are overwhelming.  So it seems to me that the simplicity of “The Golden Rule” is a gift to us, and a guide that can help us navigate the storm.  We just need to try, as often as possible, to treat other people the way we would like to be treated ourselves.  It won’t solve all our problems, but I honestly believe it would go a long way toward calming the waters for everyone.

58 thoughts on “Do Unto Others

  1. Very well stated Ann. Isn’t it funny that we expect young children to treat others as they would want to be treated but adults think they can get a pass? Kindergarteners are better behaved than grown ups! I really appreciate the thought and care that so obviously went into this post. Thank you.

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  2. The Golden Rule is stated in Mathew 7:12 and following it is described in some translations as practicing true religion. The world would be a better world if we all tried our best to direct our lives toward in the light of the Golden Rule. Thank Ann for bringing this topic to our attention!

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  3. Amen! Bravo! Very well said Ann. In a complex world made up of complex people with complex personalities, the Golden Rule is a very important simple rule that could solve a lot of our complex issues! ❤

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  4. I share your sentiment Ann and myself, even as a kid followed the golden rule. I believe in karma and cognizant of how my actions towards others will affect me. Having said that, and if I am picking up on your inferences to our current political turmoil, I would say that sometimes bullies need to be treated with some of their own medicine. Our fellow citizens, neighbors and family who think differently are one thing and I think the golden rule still applies for sure. But I think in this current “situation” playing nice with POTUS will not work. In this case I believe that we must fight fire with fire and figuratively punch this biggest bully in the face. How’s that for some negative karma?

    P.s. Thanks for the therapy session. 😉

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    • I’m glad it helped! Blogging is often a therapy session for me, as I tend to work out what I’m feeling and thinking as I write it down. I think we all have to make our own decisions in life and figure out how to best apply our values to the world around us. But for me, following the Golden Rule (or at least trying to, because believe me, I’m not always successful at it), means that I am behaving in the way that I believe is morally correct. I know that it doesn’t change how others behave (especially is the other person is in a position of power), but I need to be able to be proud of my own actions and words. On the other hand, I know that sometimes we have to stand up to bullies. But I think the danger of fighting fire with fire is that we are then behaving exactly the way the people we are opposed to behave, and I don’t want to do that. The trick, although it is very difficult, is to stand up to injustice in a firm, but loving way, I think. But that’s just my opinion, and I know that it’s not something that anyone can pull off all of the time.

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      • Well said. But I think we are in unchartered waters here and love can only conquer or overcome so much evil (evil may be too strong a term so how about narcissism on steroids)?. I’m not suggesting violence by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never been a fan of protests although I recognize the value and change they can bring. I’m glad to see so many people in the streets and airports making a strong statement. I’m not sure what punching him in the face means in this context but “we” need to figure it out and I know I need to be part of that “we”…

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        • Agreed! And you know, when I wrote this, I wasn’t really thinking of Trump and the protests. I was just thinking of how we easy it is for all of us to have one set of standards for “us” and another set for everyone else, and how much better it would be if we could recognize, and act on, the value in treating others as we want to be treated. But that’s the fun thing about writing, we just put it out there, and it can mean different things to different people. And that’s a good thing! It makes for interesting conversation…and I really do appreciate the way you are always willing to share your views in such an intelligent and sensitive way. I’ve been very lucky in the kind of comments I get in my posts, and I really value that!

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  5. I’m afraid that I am struggling with this a lot lately. But, I do try to be aware of hypocrisies on my part – finding something amusing that, if the tables were turned, would make me angry; and, finding insult where, if the subject was “the other,” I’d find amusement. It’s hard, but we work so much better as a community, a country, and a world when we attempt to get a long (but certainly not roll over in the face of lies and injustices).

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    • I think its something we all struggle with! And treating others the way we want to be treated doesn’t really mean rolling over and accepting injustices, I think. If I’m doing something wrong, I do want people to let me know. I just try to think of how I want to be corrected when I correct others, if that makes sense. Thanks for the comment!

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  6. As higher primates, and along with certain other species in that category, we have the capacity for empathy. My view is that as of yet it’s insufficiently evolved to be a truly ubiquitous boon. A question I ask myself is whether we as a species shall still exist — will the world still be habitable by us? — in the necessary time it takes to evolve this capacity to maturity. Thanks for another beautifully crafted and thoughtful article, Ann.

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    • That’s a very good question, Hariod! Whenever I spend too much time thinking about the problems in the world, I invariably come to the conclusion that the real problem is human nature. Because although we are certainly capable of empathy, love, and compassion, we also seem to have an innate need for an enemy, to be right, and to be involved in some kind of battle. (And the more self-righteous we get to feel, the better.) I hope that as humans continue to evolve we grow in the first category and tone down the need to fight, but only time will tell. And as you point out, out planet may well give out before we get to that point, if we ever do!

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  7. As always, written with passion and eloquently expressed., Ann. Very well done!
    I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to understand that while we are all different in so many ways those differences should/ can be a source of enlightenment instead of division.
    As Kim mentioned in her comment, very young children not only understand this concept, they embrace it and see through it.
    It’s normal and healthy to want to express your views as long as it’s done with respect and in a way that doesn’t demean someone else’s feelings.
    We seem to have lost that simple practice of understanding the feelings of others, looking through people in order to satisfy our own feelings and deliver our own message regardless of who it may hurt.
    Thank you for reminding us of that very important rule.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the way you put that! “looking through other people in order to satisfy our own feelings and deliver our own message….” That’s exactly what I meant with this entire post, and you summed it up in one sentence. You’d better be careful: next time I’m struggling with finding exactly the words for one of my ideas, I might just send you the outline and see what you can do with it! (And that’s one of the nicest compliments I can give.)

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  8. So very true Ann. The Golden Rule applies to us all and sometimes as much as we think we know better, we inadvertently break it. We so need to be aware though. Mum used to often say to me, if you have nothing good to say, better to say nothing. Nice post Ann. x

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    • Your mother was right! Following the Golden Rule is hard for me at times, and I don’t fall short very often. But I think the important thing is that I keep trying, and realize that I really can do better! Thanks, Miriam!

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    • I think it is a good thing, when I’m trying to decide how to respond to something or someone, to turn the situation around in my mind, and think, “How would I feel if I were that person?” It’s simple, but it’s also rather effective. I think your mom was a smart woman!

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