Many recent events have caused me to consider anew one of the most universal axioms known to humankind. It is found in multiple religions and philosophies regardless of whether or not they believe in a Higher Power, in the Big Bang, or in Nothing At All. It is the idea of treating one another with love and kindness, with patience and mercy, with understanding and respect.
From ancient China, Confucius stated, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” In ancient Greece, Isocrates declared, “Do not to others that which angers you when they do it to you.” There are multiple versions of this concept in the religions of the world – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism to name a few. More secular circles also emphasize this concept in many ways, claiming it as a humanist principle.
Some term this principle as The Golden Rule and articulate it as follows, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Others have refined this to The Platinum Rule, which says, in essence, that we seek to understand how others would like to be treated, and then treat them that way, rather than treating others the way we, ourselves, would like to be treated.
Can we imagine what the world would be like if all of us did our very best to live by this principle? We wouldn’t need law enforcement officers. We wouldn’t need attorneys. We would live without war and hatred and envy and jealousy and greed. Of course, that’s all a gross generalization that assumes that every single living human would choose to follow the principles embodied in the Golden Rule. The crux of the issue is that we have the freedom to make our own choices.
We are able to choose those things that we want in our lives – people, interests, places, activities. It is choice that makes the world such an incredibly diverse and magnificent place. We find things we enjoy – art, music, photography, travel, building, gardening – and we pursue those with passion, developing our talent to create and make the space around us wonderful.
Sometimes, however, we also use that ability to choose to make the space around us ugly and unattractive. Because we are emotional beings, we can become angry (or some other emotion) and say or do things that hurt those around us. At times that hurt can strike deeply and remain for years, or decades, developing into deep-seated prejudices. We can choose to be offended by someone or something that we may not agree with or that we find hurtful for whatever reason. And we may justify our thoughts, words, or deeds by saying, “They made me do it,” or “I had no other choice.”
But there is always a choice. No one can take away our individual capacity to make our own choices. We may feel forced or threatened or coerced toward a certain choice. But, in the final analysis, it is our choice, no matter the result or consequence or influence that brought us to that choice.
And so, as we press forward in this life, let us all be mindful of the choices that we make and the ripple effects of those choices. Let us determine to be influences for love and kindness, patience and mercy, understanding and respect. Have a great day!
I’ll lift you and you lift me, and we’ll both ascend together.
– John Greenleaf Whittier