History shows that nearly every culture developed the precepts and practices of the Golden Rule. They called it by different names, but a rose by any other name is … Now that is not to say that following the Golden Rule is easy or doing so will always result in immediate gratification. In fact there are times when following the Golden Rule will approach a near impossibility. And that is when we must try our level best to remain faithful to our pledge.
Expecting everyone will always follow the Golden Rule, without exception is like expecting you’ll hit the target dead center every time. But just because I accept that despite my best intentions there will be moments when I fail and sometimes fail miserably to follow the Golden Rule that does not mean I should abandon any attempt to follow the Golden Rule.
Any accomplished musician will confirm the adage: “practice makes perfect”. As a Golden Rule Advocate it is my responsibility to practice, practice and then practice more until I am habituated to following the Golden Rule. It is our nature as human beings to do what we usually do. The more we follow the Golden Rule, the more we can follow the Golden Rule.
As much as I love playing the guitar, I accept that I’m never going to play like my brother Jimmy Mack. I play guitar, he’s a guitar player.
In fact, if you heard him live I’m confident you would agree that he’s as good as Clapton, Page, Bonamassa, et al. They and others on that level are as close to guitar player perfection as is humanly possible. Just because I will never play like them, does that mean I should never pick up the guitar?
Why do I play guitar? Well because I absolutely love the sound of the guitar. I have always loved listening to music and find it very rewarding. And making music (in my case by playing guitar) takes the musical reward to a whole other level. If, since I’m very confident I’ll never play like Segovia, I decided never to pick up the guitar again, who would I deprive? Well obviously myself.
Similarly, if I gave up trying to follow the Golden Rule, because I know I can never do so perfectly every time, I would never know the inner satisfaction that comes from those times when I do succeed in remaining faithful to my Golden Rule Pledge. I would never experience the joy that awaits us for every tiny victory over the all too human tendency to strike back at a real or assumed slight.
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The Golden Rule emerged in seemingly disparate cultures and among diverse peoples all over the world not because we as a species are particularly altruistic, too often we are not. It withstood the test of time as the best universally adopted approach to life as much for the benefit it brings the doer as for the benefit it delivers to the one to whom something is done (or not done).
In a way, it works because being kind to others is the selfish thing to do. In the final analysis thinking human beings eventually come to realize (regrettably, too often through painful trial and error) that we cannot really bring pain and suffering to another human being without eventually suffering the consequences of that misdeed. The spiritual say: “You reap what you sow” and scientists say: “For every action there is a reaction.”
Some may say, “Why should I practice the Golden Rule toward so and so, he’s not a nice person?” That is the wrong question. Being human means our judgment of another certainly could be wrong. A better question is: “Since I cannot know the heart of another, why should I not treat that person as I wish to be treated?” A Golden Rule Advocate begins with the premise that everyone gets the Golden Rule treatment whether “entitled” or not.
What about someone who does something unpleasant to me that is totally without merit? Neither is it deserved nor is it warranted in any way. The miscreant might be a total stranger with whom I have never had any interaction and therefore the mistreatment could not possibly be retaliation for something I have done either perceived or actual.
Or it might be someone I know, someone I have always treated with kindness, compassion and generosity. The Golden Rule breaker might be mean spirited, hateful and hurtful toward me. What happens to me if I return that misbehavior in kind? The mistreatment I suffer at the hands of another will in time, pass. But, wherever that doer of misdeeds goes, there he is. He cannot get away from himself and the eventual memories of his unkindness.
Likewise, if I elect to return that mistreatment in kind, the psychological pain of knowing I abused another and broke my Pledge to follow the Golden Rule will stay with me far longer than the pain and suffering I endured at the hands of that wrongdoer.
This is so because wherever I go, along with me comes my memories – not another’s. It’s part of the “action – reaction thing”.
It is for our own spiritual and mental good health that we follow the Golden Rule. It is in our enlightened self interest that we choose to turn the other cheek when we are confronted with evil. For me to know justice would be served by mistreating the person next to me, means I would have to know everything about that person.
To know everything I would have to be God, Allah, El Shaddai, Buddha, Ishvara (insert the name of your all knowing being). As Father Cavanaugh told Rudy in the movie of the same name, “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him”.
If there is an all knowing, all powerful, all seeing higher power, as I believe there is then that higher power is likely taking note. If there is a day of reckoning, as I believe there is than when my time comes to leave this physical world I do not believe I will be called to account for misdeeds conducted by others against me.
I believe I only have to account for my behavior and that certainly includes how I treat those who do not share my world view.
We are responsible for our own actions or in-actions. That responsibility extends to how we respond to the behavior of others. We have responsibility and respondibility (if I may use a non-word to make a point).
Clearly if everyone in the world always practiced the Golden Rule there would be no wars. No Macedonian War, no Saxon Wars, no Mongol Wars, no Hundred Years War, no World War I or II, no cold war. For the United States that would mean the Civil War never occurred.
Ask the average U. S. citizen today “Who won or lost” the Civil War and they are usually quick to respond. But in some ways I believe we all won and we all lost.
Clearly, slavery is among the most abhorrent of human misdeeds and a total violation of the Golden Rule. Its abolition anywhere is a victory for not only those enslaved but also for all humanity.
In history there are no “do-overs” so we will never know if slavery could have been abolished through less destructive means. Thankfully, today we would be hard pressed to find many sane individuals who would defend the enslavement of any individual, for any reason whatsoever.
Historians tell us 3.5 to 4 million soldiers fought in the U. S. Civil War and over 620,000 lost their lives. Think about what is lost to future generations when so many lives are ended prematurely. All of those soldiers who died face down in the blood stained dust at Gettysburg gave their full measure and many gave not decedents.
Who could calculate the contributions those countless never-born could have made to the world, the victories they could have won for humanity? Are we still dependent on fossil fuels because the ultimate clean alternative was to be discovered by the decedent of 2nd Lt William H Beaver? Or a decedent of one of the thousands who also bleed and died at Gettysburg?
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How about the loss of lineage from the additional 33,300 who died from wounds in that battle?
Who could say that a great, great, great granddaughter of one of these fallen, never Fathers would not have discovered a cure for cancer? How many lives would a cure for cancer save? How many more victories could those cancer survivors have won for humanity?
Instead of winning victories for humanity, those who have started wars (which cumulatively have lead to an incalculable number of deaths) have committed an incredible crime against humanity.
Just imagine, if from the beginning of time all that has been expended toward those activities that bring pain and suffering, if all that time, energy, man power and bullion had been directed toward curing the diseases that have plagued mankind, then who is to say that we would not already be living in health nirvana with life spanning one hundred twenty years or more.
Frivolous inquiries you say. Perhaps not!
Just because answers to these questions are currently out of our reach does not mean they should not be asked and thought about long and hard. And just because the perfect application of the Golden Rule every time, everywhere, by everybody at this point in human history is impossible does not mean you and I and countless other Golden Rule Advocates cannot be a force for good in our families, our schools, our jobs, and our communities by pledging to do our level best everyday to follow the Golden Rule, to treat others as we wish to be treated.
If you believe the world is a better place when more of us treat others as we wish to be treated then join us in encouraging widespread adoption of the Golden Rule.
Following the Golden Rule offers the best path to peace for humanity.
We encourage all Golden Rule Advocates to join together to become more powerful forces for good. We created several affiliate sites focusing on different human needs. One or more may be of interest to you. Buylocali is a crowd funding site that helps local, small businesses who are facing a financial crisis. Magnanamas is a crowd funding site that helps individuals facing a financial crisis. Human Crisis Central aggregates crisis intervention resources.
Taking the Golden Rule Pledge brings the growing community of Golden Rule Advocates closer to the day when we have the power to impact peace in the world. If you agree the Golden Rule is the best path to peace for all humanity I encourage you to take the pledge now!
John H. McIntosh
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