“Why is it that we ignore the things that could relieve our suffering?” he asked, looking very perplexed.
“What do you mean?” I asked warily, not really intending to answer his question with a question.
“The golden rule,” he replied.
I seemed to recall somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory, learning something about the golden rule, I think maybe, in Sunday school, but I couldn’t quite remember it at that moment. Perhaps this temporary…or was it permanent…memory lapse had something to do with my burning desire, at the time, to be doing anything other than sitting in Sunday school … especially on a warm Sunday morning, which it always seemed to be when we were locked up in that stifling hot room. It is possible, no probable, that my disdain for Sunday school had a lot to do with already having to sit quietly five days a week at elementary school. How was that an appropriate way to treat a free spirit? I wanted to be free dammit!
None the less, my friend seemed to be expressing a genuine concern and I felt it important to acknowledge the significance of his question. “Ya, it’s an important rule, isn’t it?” I responded cleverly, not wanting to reveal my forgetfulness.
“If everyone simply treated each other the way they wanted to be treated, most, if not all, of society’s ills would evaporate, like water on hot asphalt.”
My mind suddenly began racing in a jumble of thoughts. First, I was happy to now remember the hallowed golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but I was also consumed with the implications of my friend’s declaration because I had been so busy earning a living, raising the kids, juggling bill payments, planning our next vacation destination, watching golf on TV, finishing the various projects around the house and trying to figure where the dog hid my slippers, that I hadn’t given much consideration to how people were treating one another. (Believe it or not, I was also visualizing water evaporating from asphalt!)
Was I ignoring something vital? “Didn’t Jesus say that,” I inquired.
“Yes, he did, but I don’t think he was the first one to say it.”
“He wasn’t?” I asked, inadvertently revealing my ignorance on the subject.
“Nope. Buddhist text says, “hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” And Jewish text reads, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Even Ancient Egyptian text contains a similar message, “do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do.”
“How do you know all this stuff,” I asked incredulously.
“Google,” he replied with a grin.
“I guess you don’t need to be Christian in order to know or practice the rule,” I offered.
“Not at all,” he agreed. “The golden rule transcends religion. In fact, similar words are written in Islamic text, “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
“We all practice it to a certain extent, don’t we?” I inquired, hoping to uncover at least some semblance of goodness in humankind.
“Yes, we do. But why do we limit it. Why do we often just apply it to our own special group? After all, just because you are Christian, doesn’t mean you can’t be kind to a Muslim, and just because you are Catholic, doesn’t mean you can’t have compassion for a Protestant.”
“And Sunnis can be nice to Shias, or natives or anyone else for that matter,” I agreed enthusiastically.
“And we don’t have to limit this discussion to religion either. The same is true for how we treat people from a different race, culture, country of origin, native tongue, sexual orientation, gender, etc, etc, etc.”
“Or who might have different views, opinions, values and ideals.”
“I guess part of it comes down to being accepting of our differences.”
“Indeed. But I think it mostly has to do with how we feel about ourselves, individually, culturally and collectively. It each of us felt good about ourselves, we wouldn’t mistreat others no matter how different they were.”
“It always seems to come back to that simple truth, doesn’t it?”
“Much of the time, it does.” he agreed.
“What if someone mistreats you?” I asked.
“Then we can go back to something else Jesus said, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘If someone hits you on the right cheek, offer them the left.'”
“To quote a more recent thespian, ‘show them the love!'”
“And what about fanatics,” I asked nodding, recognizing his reference to Cuba Gooding Jr’s character in the movie, Jerry McGuire. “Like religious fanatics who kill in the name of God.”
“That’s an entirely different issue that requires a slightly different solution,” my friend countered.
“Perhaps, another discussion,” I suggested.
“Yes, it will take us a while to sort through that one.”
“I’ll stay tuned,” I said enthusiastically.
Have an awesomely tolerant day!