Recited, quoted, and repeated again; so well known for many centuries I fear at times the Golden Rule has become perceived as a cliche, rather than the substantive, universal truth we all need. Perhaps more now than ever before.
In this edition of Becoming Today we’ll explore the truths and values contained in this wisdom handed down through the ages.
When I learned the Golden Rule as a child it was taught to me as,
“Treat others as you would have them treat you.”
Simple, easy to remember and at the time I could not fathom the depth of it’s inspiration.
That’s because it was used as a threat against me. Another tool by my abusive parents to reinforce that I was worthless, unwanted and would never amount to anything. So I better be extra good or God would punish me even more than they did.
Fortunately I have learned they were confusing God with Santa Claus.
That merry old elf is the one that has the list and is checking it twice to see who’s naughty or nice. While my Heavenly Father will certainly one day hold me accountable for my choices to learn, grow and become, or not; He is not sitting there shining a flashlight on me, saying there she goes again, another black mark.
Which by the way Santa apparently gave me a lot of. Every Christmas I received a stocking full of coal. Years later I was even more upset when I learned it wasn’t even real coal, just charcoal… partially burnt wood and other unwanted substances of no perceived value.
I was a teenager, before I first heard that maybe this Golden Rule had something to do with the Bible.
That’s how I heard it then. Growing up in the inner city South Side of Chicago
I saw a lot of people doing things to others but do un? Say what? I didn’t have a lot of examples of anyone undoing things, much less considering how what they were doing might impact anyone else, much less affect themselves later on
Still there was something about this edict that I held onto in my heart. Someday I knew it would make sense . Somehow, someday, it must…….
I was a young adult before I first read Matthew 7:12 in the King James Version,
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Wait a second, Jesus said this? Now I know that means whatsoever ye would do, obviously must mean something good. So I began to realize this doing un, wasn’t about getting what’s yours before someone else grabs it and certainty was not a threat to do it “their” way or else.
I mean if prophets followed this as a law it has to be important. Still it would be a number of years before I would encounter teachers who could more fully explain it. I the English Standard Version (translation of the bible, the Scripture reads as,
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”.
Jesus taught this in one of most descriptive lessons, the Sermon on the Mount. And the preceding line is,
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” ( Matthew 7:11, from the New Living Translation)
Be good to others and goodness will be returned to you. A revolutionary concept to me at the time. I had no idea I would later as I do know accept this as a universal truth. A basis for all I am constantly Becoming.
As with much of life there are slight variations of this same lessons including,
Treat others as you would like others to treat you .
Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated.
What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself.
While still quite young at the time of learning of this teaching, I could certainly with a more mature wisdom realize that to “Treat others as you would have them treat you.” is truly golden.
“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
And continuing he made sure to also express in verse 15, “ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out ….”
Furthermore it’s not just a Christian concept. As the image of the oil painting by Norman Rockwell that I share here illustrates, all faiths practice this teaching and realize the need for it in our world.
While not called the Golden Rule at the time of Jesus’ life on Earth it came to be widely accepted by this name in the early 17th Century.In Britain Anglican theologians and preachers adopted the phrase with the earliest known usage by Charles Gibbon and Thomas Jackson in 1604.
Included in Rockwell’s notes for the painting and the Saturday Evening Post article that appeared in April of 1961 were references to his own study of the concept, “The thing is that all major religions have the Golden Rule in Common.”
He specifically noted :
Confucianism ; Hinduism; Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.(T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien);, as well as Islamic ethics, plus what Rockwell termed Hebraism, writing,….
Certainly the parlance of another time, however still the knowledge and associated journeys are worthy of our consideration.
He also harkened back to the century prior with a quote from a poet and early US labor activist Edwin Markham,
“We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.”
As we consider this covenant for ourselves along our shared paths of Becoming I am a bit distracted, and need to interject…..
BTW is it just me? I know this has absolutely nothing to do with our topic, but I can’t get it outta my head. In the center of Rockwell’s painting there is a figure that looks just like singer Lyle Lovett.
Agree? Can someone ask Julia Roberts what she thinks? Anyway I had to share so I can move on with our discussion.
Beyond accepted religious and philosophical practices the Golden Rule is deeply rooted in the historical studies of ancient cultures.
In Ancient Egypt, historians note the story of “The Eloquent Peasant”, dating to the time period known as the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BC): “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to make him do.”In addition a later (c. 664–323 BC) papyrus contains, “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”
From the Sanskrit tradition researchers have learned from the Mahābhārata, the ancient epic tale of India, there is a discourse about dharma, a philosophical understanding of values and actions that lend good order to life:
“One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one’s own self. In brief, this is dharma. Anything else is succumbing to desire.”
The Golden Rule as a warning has also been found to have been commonly taught in ancient Greece.These include:
“Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” – Thales (c. 624–c. 546 BC)
“What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. ” – Sextus the Pythagorean
“Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.” – Isocrates (436–338 BC)
Continuing on (I suppose by ship at the time), in ancient Persia,The Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism (c. 300 BC–1000 AD) include: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.” Plus “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.”
Furthermore Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC–65 AD), an ancient Roman practitioner of Stoicism, expressed the Golden Rule in his essay regarding the treatment of slaves: “Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you.”
Whether through your faith, culture, society, family or history books we can all more than likely cite a knowledge of and hopefully an understanding of the Golden Rule.
Which translation, adaptation or philosophy do you practice or are considering making it a part of your daily rituals and beliefs? Share below or use the form on our Contact page for private communications.
As for me I’ll go back to the earliest words I remember, “Treat others as you would have them treat you.” Though I’ll express them with my more mature understanding, having unlearned much of the negativity of what should have been my childhood.
I choose to embrace these words as a loving expression towards all people. All are deserving of being treated with compassion, dignity and respect. I choose to reflect the light and love of the Lord to each and everyone of you as we continue along the path of our shared journey here on “Becoming Today”.