The Golden Rule and beyond
A best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, was first published in 1937 with the sole purpose “to help solve the biggest problem you face: the problem of getting along with and influencing people in your everyday, business and social contacts.”
Carnegie outlined a series of principles designed to win people to your way of thinking:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
These principles remain as relevant today as when first written. However, long, long before Carnegie penned these principles, Jesus put it far more concisely and from a viewpoint of love, when as part of his sermon on the Mount, he said: “always treat others as you would like them to treat you” [Matthew 7:12]
These words of Jesus are often referred to as “The Golden Rule.” What is truly remarkable is that people are often surprised and pleased to discover versions of the Golden Rule in other religions and secular philosophies. There has been a chart prepared titled Thirteen Sacred Texts in which are expounded principles from many different philosophies, all remarkably similar in content and meaning.
For example, Confucius said: One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct…. loving-kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. [Analects 15.23]. Buddha taught: Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. [Udana-Varga 5.1]. Hindus have a saying: This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. [Mahabharata 5:1517]. Lao Tzu taught: Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss. [T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien]
Even with the strong unity of agreement between various philosophies, there is a question to ask: Is the Golden Rule, by itself, enough of a guideline on how we might live our lives?
By itself the Golden Rule is not enough. There is more to it. Jesus takes us deeper into the way in which we need to consider how to live our lives. ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. [Matthew 22:37-38]
Jesus came to earth to serve, showing God’s true love to all people, through loving compassion. He proved, beyond any doubt, the extent of his love when he laid down his life for us, so we might be redeemed. An instrument of death – the Cross – has become the greatest possible symbol of true love. Jesus proved his love for us. He gave ALL for us. What does he expect of us in return? Simply that we love him and love others.
The Golden Rule requires you to take the initiative; it is up to you! And there is no expectation of reciprocity. Rather you focus on others; willingly, wholeheartedly, without any expectation of reward or return service. Do good for others, give benefit to others, care for others, and love others. In fact, the Golden Rule could well be distilled to one word: OTHERS!
Our purpose in life is to make people, others, rather than things, our greatest priority and by giving priority to the needs of others in our daily lives. God wants you to be a caring person, sensitive to the needs of others and aware of how to serve them.
St Paul urges us, through his letter to the Philippians [2:3-5] that “… everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus…”
Strive to reflect the image of Christ by making our own the mind of Christ Jesus. The true test of being more Christ-like is the love we have for one another. True holiness consists of the burning desire to become more like Jesus and a willingness to reach out to others. The love of Jesus should be evident in the way we live our lives.
“In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” [Matthew 25:40]