I am a big proponent of the Golden Rule. “Treat others as you want to be treated” is a sentiment that is found in some form in all religions. Jesus went further that most when he usurped all other commandments and told his followers to love God and love their neighbors as they would themselves—a tall order indeed.
The difficulty becomes apparent when we take a step back and ask what needs to happen before we can follow the Golden Rule. The dilemma can be boiled down to a single question: Do we love ourselves enough to want to be treated well and are we willing to extend that care to others?
Not Always Loving
I have not always been a model citizen. In all honesty, I have gone through periods in my life where I earned the pun on my name (Hi, I’m Gudjon, used to be Bad-John). But in hindsight, I can safely say that when I hurt other people, it usually went hand in hand with low self-esteem.
For example, I went through several years as a young adult when I was being bullied. During that time, I went out of my way to make sure others felt as miserable as I did. Later in life, I was in a relationship where I was loved but felt that I wasn’t worthy of love and sabotaged the relationship. And currently, even on my best days, I have moments where I look in the mirror and feel ‘less than’ and that affects my interactions with others.
From what I have seen and heard during my years on this Earth, I am not alone. It seems that most (if not all) of us go through periods where we do not love ourselves and feel that we should not be treated well. That gives some of us (not all) internal permission to treat others badly. When my daughter was nine, she wisely said that she tries to keep it to herself when she is feeling bad and not lash out at others to make them feel bad.
Building a Strong Foundation
The foundation for the Golden Rule is self-care and self-love. We must want to be treated well in order to treat others well. We must love ourselves (not in a selfish way, but caringly) so that we can extend that love and include others in it.
There are many ways to get there. People can use a variety of self-care techniques to make themselves feel better, rely on God’s love to provide them with an inner wellspring, look for the light in themselves and see it reflected in others, or something completely different.
The method isn’t as important the destination.
If a person loves him or herself, treats others well, and extends that love beyond the boundaries of their own being, then who are we to judge how they got there?
From the Inside Out
Harmony Interfaith Initiative is a signatory to the Charter for Compassion and I use the rule to improve my relationships every day. For the Golden Rule to spread, we must consistently use our preferred methods to replenish the spring of love and compassion within so the fountain will keep flowing without restrictions. It must spring from the inside out.
It’s a Catch-22. In our exuberant attempts to be good, we tend to focus so much on others that we forget about ourselves. We forget that we are the fountains from which benevolent actions must flow. On the days that we feel depleted and can’t do that, let’s hope that enough people around us have remembered to fill their cups of love and have some left to share.
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We are an educational and social good interfaith organization. We provide people with access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. We use the term interfaith broadly to mean 'a strong belief in someone or something' and focus on improving interrelations between people who have different worldviews. Our primary goals are to remind people of our shared humanity and to support new and ongoing efforts.
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©Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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