Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Golden Rule, version 2.0

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

- Matthew 7:12 NIV

This passage has been labeled the Golden Rule. This rule has become a universally accepted principle for just about every religion on the planet. It provides us a basis upon which we should treat others. Considering the following:

Example 1: *Note* The names have been changed to protect the innocent (and, I suppose, the not-so-innocent):

A few days ago, I got into a little skirmish with a friend. My issue with him was that he neglected my needs to protect the interest of another person who may have somehow been affected by me. Although this other person probably didn't deserve this special consideration given to him by my friend (especially at my expense), he received it anyway. When I asked my friend about it, he essentially said, "Well, I wouldn't want (whatever the situation was) to happen to me, so I wasn't going to do it to him (the other person)."

Sounds good, right? Sounds like a perfect way to use the Golden Rule, right?

Example 2: Last Sunday, I went out to lunch after morning church services. I sat down in the restaurant, ate a good meal, did some reading and left. One the way back to church, I passed right by a homeless guy. I would've helped this guy out. Really. But, I was running late for church (Ain't it funny how the religious folks did the same thing to beaten man in the Good Samaritan parable? Further evidence that I also suck at being a Christian...)

The next day, as I walking through downtown during my lunch hour, I encountered another homeless man. To make up for the guilt that I had from the day before. I gave the man the rest of my sandwich. I walked a little taller that day, thinking that I had really done some good. I could stick my chest out knowing that I successfully applied the Golden Rule to my life.

Example 3: Most people who know me would say that I'm a kind-hearted person who would go to great lengths to do for other people, even if it means putting myself in a compromising position. In fact, my siblings have affectionately nicknamed me "The Captain", because I'm always "saving" other people. The list of things I've done for others could take up quite a few blogs.

I could end this post right now by telling you that these examples are perfect illustrations for how the Golden Rule works.

But, I think you all know me by now...

The truth is, these are ACTUALLY examples of how we often mistaken our good intentions with our overpowering egos. In each of the aforementioned instances, the people who committed the 'good deeds' (my friend in Example 1, me in Examples 2 and 3) didn't do so for the sake of another person, but rather to satisfy ourselves. Lately, I've noticed that I've been griping (to both my cybernetic and everyday friends) that I'm "giving, giving, giving", but not "receiving". This has been troubling my heart lately, largely because I'm starting to realize how self-centered I am. I guess I need to come clean and say that most of what I do for others is more about me being able to wear it as a shiny badge than for the other person's edification.

For the record, I've never had any beef with the Golden Rule. I mean, it's Biblical for Heaven's sake. My issue, instead, has to do with our application of it. Rather than truly doing for others, we do for others in response to what we do or don't want to happen to us. We pay our tithes and offerings so that God will bless us with tangible items in return (or to have our names visible in the church bullentin. But that's another story...) or that He'll punish us if we don't. We give to charity because we would want people to do the same for us if we were in need. We show kindness to one another because we want to be treated kindly ourselves.

But what happens to our benevolence if it's not reciprocated?

For instance, I'd like to think that I would never kill anybody. Not only is killing flat out wrong, but it causes suffering for more than just the victim. But, what if I said that the one reason why I wouldn't kill someone is because I wouldn't want someone else to kill me or someone close to me? At that point, I place more emphasis on what I don't want for myself than what I do want for the other person.

Don't get me wrong: the Bible clearly states that we should do for others in the way we want that we want them to do for us. But, it doesn't tell us to use our expectation for reciprocity as a motivator for doing what's right. If we really demonstrated God's love in our walk of life, we wouldn't need to follow a rule for us to figure out how we should treat one another and how we respond to God. Do we really need a rule to tell us that we should love, respect and do good for others? Do we really need a rule to tell us that we should love and honor God for...well, just being God?

How much of what we do for others is more about them and less about ourselves?


11 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Hey Greeneyed handsome man ,

I fully believe in do onto others as you would want them to do onto you , but I also believe that we should do "good" for nothing in return , Karma has a way of leveling things out and if it doesnt , one should take away the sadisfaction of doing something for someone just to help them with no earthly or heavenly reward .
We as humans should help those in need as well as lightening someones load without hesitation, without trying to add up BROWNIE points for our good behavior.
Just being a good person should lead us into this , help thy neighbour etc.

He who giveth freely ,giveth the best gift of all :)

Hope you didnt have to stay in after school today heheheheh could not resist LOL

joanne said...


Each day that I have a chance to tune into "Andre's Head", I'm left with something new to put in my heart. Today is no exception.

You're sooooo correct on this one. We DO act out of benevolence for other people so that we can feel better about ourselves. I can't begin to tell you how often I've felt like somebody's "owed" me something because of my good deeds. This attitude is a clear indication that I was being selfish too.

Way to drive it home, my friend!

Andre said...

@ green-eyed: Thanks for blessing me with your comments. You're absolutely correct in saying that we should do for others with no expectation or desire for it to be returned on us. Too often we don't.

BTW, I've been a naughty school boy. What are you going to do about it...?! *joke*

@ joanne: This post was really hard for me to write, largely because I hate putting myself out there as a selfish person. But, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. Al of us are.

I just admit it...

Anonymous said...

You're such an amazing writer. If it's not too personal, can I ask you what inspires it?

alex said...

I've been reading your blog for a while and I just wanted to remind you of how much I really enjoy what you have to say. Even though I don't always respond to what you have to say, I'm frequently touched by your words. They're a breath of fresh air!

From where I stand, your understanding of what it means to be a Christian is expressed in everything you put down (with some exceptions, I guess, where you get all militant! :) )

Keep on sharing Christ with the world!

J. Alex

Andre said...

@ anonymous and alex: Thank you both for your kind words. Honestly, I really can't put my finger on the "force" behind what I say. Mostly, I'm just an overly opinionated person. But -- sometimes -- the difficult and hurtful places in my life provide a much needed spark for what I have to say. It gets particularly bad for me when the people closest to me make it seem like I'M the one at fault for having my hurtful feelings.

When I feel like the world's against me, I try to cling to God. Doing so helps me to see things from an angle that ultimately gives me the serenity to analyze my situations...hence, my blog. Besides that, I really love the fact that there are people out there (albeit, cybernetic) who can see me, see what I have to say, and not vilify me for it. It's refreshing.

The "militant" stuff is just a product of me suffering from the "Angry Black Male" syndrome. You may have read about it somewhere...

Ron the Salesman said...

You know, I really think you should write a book. I'd buy it.

LOL @ Angry Black Man syndrome. I'm wondering if I've got that too (even though I'm white). Most of the "militant" stuff you talk about is what I agree with.

ellena said...

I enjoy reading your posts Andre.

This is an interesting post because personally I rarely think of selfishness as constructive - almost always as destructive. Yet some selfishness is a tool which drives us to build more confidence in what we do. So, don’t beat yourself up too much. In fact, maybe if you reread your own words, you might be able to glean a different message from it.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Hello Greeneyedman ,

Do onto to others......

Lets see what am I going to do about it hummmm well I went to an all girl school run by Nuns , they used rulers and straps ,,,but that would hurt you my dear ,,,,I will have to think about it but keep it to myself as the world may think BAD of me hahahahahah . thanks for endulging me though , It's kinda fun LOL

Anonymous said...

you probably won't take the words of a stranger to heart, but you really need to get some of this stuff published. you need to reach a bigger audience with your amazing writing.


Anonymous said...

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