It Can Be So Easy

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It can be so easy and simple in a time when it seems few of our values or beliefs, our principles, or traditions, are shared commonly with others. Our perceptions happen in a split second as do our judgments. It makes the world of communication more complex and difficult than it may once have been. Perhaps this season of speedy modes of communication has fueled much of it. A text or post on social media can happen quickly and sometimes on impulse without checking spelling or much thinking.

In another era when letters and notes were penned as the most common form of communication, it slowed the process down and usually the writer reread what was written before sending it off to the receiver. That once happened more often with email when it was new to us. Then we wanted to be sure it said what we meant and how we meant it more often. Now we are prone to react to whatever is impacting us.

The results are evident everywhere as we misperceive, get hurt or offended, and are then tempted to react all over again. We get baited to then become defensive and justify ourselves without much consideration of what we may have shared that got that reaction and it starts long before we learn to read or write.

A child is playing in the backyard and the neighbor child who used to come over ignores our invitation to join her on her swing set. The child might be tempted to think the neighbor child doesn’t like her any more without realizing the other child did not hear her or that they are going to be leaving with a parent soon and can’t come this time.

This can be a great opportunity to help a child consider other options than might first come to mind if we take the time to talk them through the situation. The result might help them next time to not take something as a personal rejection and learn a tool that can be useful all through life. It may take a few extra minutes but be worth so much for the next time it happens.

Sometimes not saying anything gets interpreted as something the child or we as adults didn’t mean at all. It can happen in so many ways. Someone shows up late for our party and we can be tempted to feel slighted with no awareness of traffic, a possible flat tire, or a dozen other things that may have happened. After all, isn’t the world about us?

Once upon a time, we operated more commonly on something called “the Golden Rule” which posits that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. It seemed to serve us well for quite some time but rarely is it quoted or spoken of now. The Golden Rule, known also as the Ethic of Reciprocity, was arguably the most consistent, most prevalent, and most universal ethical principle in history.

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Writers of the famed Encyclopedia Britannica tell us the origin of this principle:

Golden Rule, precept in the Gospel of Matthew (7:12): “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. . . .” This rule of conduct is a summary of the Christian’s duty to his neighbour and states a fundamental ethical principle. In its negative form, “Do not do to others what you would not like done to yourselves,” it occurs in the 2nd-century documents Didachē and the Apology of Aristides and may well have formed part of an early catechism.  It recalls the command to “love the stranger (sojourner)” as found in Deuteronomy. It is not, however, peculiar to Christianity. Its negative form is to be found in Tob. 4:15, in the writings of the two great Jewish scholars Hillel (1st century BC) and Philo of Alexandria (1st centuries BC and AD), and in the Analects of Confucius (6th and 5th centuries BC). It also appears in one form or another in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, and Seneca.”

How and when did we leave all this behind? Perhaps that is not so important as the consequence of losing it little by little in the modern era when we also seemed to slip away from studying history and all it could do to help us navigate the present and avoid some mistakes in the process.

It is noteworthy that even though its origin in scripture that ties it to Christianity and is often referred to in that context, that it was universal across many faiths and cultures beyond that and earlier than that. Some scholars take it back as early as 2040 and 1782 BCE or to Greece in 400 BCE.

As recently as 1988, George H.W. Bush laid out a vision for a “kinder and gentler nation.” How far nations and the world have moved from such a vision, but even in small ways we could perhaps impact our corner of the world. We could listen longer and ask questions before leaping to conclusions and remember that every opinion we have is not a universal accepted one. Without giving up our own beliefs, we could seek to understand before seeking to be understood as Stephen Covey reminds us in his principles of being effective as a person.

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It starts in small ways that are actually big by being less critical of someone else and how he or she does something for you. It can begin by noticing the haggard look at a checkout counter and thanking the clerk for helping you and offering a smile instead of never even seeing him or her as a person not so different than you may be.  It can happen when you slow down long enough to hold open a door for a busy mom, an older person, or just anyone at all. It only takes that long to make a difference if we will choose what would bless us and bless someone else.

It may not mean others will follow you if you adapt your consideration in such ways, but it will demonstrate your character and it is the one you are responsible for and will be judged by others on.

11 thoughts on “It Can Be So Easy

  1. Pam, someone said (maybe Paul Tripp) that we are more affected by how we process what happens to us than what actually happens. I thought about that in your example of the child’s friend who didn’t come to play and the late arriver at the party. We are so quick these days to make assumptions and that is a bad way to do life. I talk about the Golden Rule a lot in counseling but there is also the Golden Result in Matthew 7.2. Jesus said the way we measure it will be measured back to us. Generally, people will treat us the way we treat them.

  2. So interesting, the history of the Golden Rule you have shared. I had no idea. It’s a timeless, universal “rule” that I hope I pass on to my grandchildren, too, through my words and actions.

  3. Sometimes its just not that hard to be kind and people fail to try.

    A woman was almost in tears when my husband and I waited patiently while she loaded her car with all the baby stuff after church. She seemed truly amazed we weren’t impatient. We’d just left church what better time to show compassion for a Mom with all she has to manage. We didn’t do anything but wait without being jerks and yet it meant so much to this Mom who said she’s been yelled at in parking lots for moving too slow. It doesn’t take much to be kind. Yet we never know the impact it has on those around us.

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