Do Unto Others

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 93; 150, Isaiah 32:1-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, Matthew 7:7-14


In everything do to others as you would have them do to you;
for this is the law and the prophets.
– Matthew 7:12

These words from Jesus are often called “The Golden Rule.” The concept transcends the Judeo-Christian tradition; many (most?) cultures have some variation. One might think such a universal idea must be common sense, but it really isn’t. Have you ever heard of “NIMBY?” It stands for “Not In My Back Yard.” For example, we want the convenience of cheap petroleum products like plastic and gasoline, but nobody wants the toxic waste dumped in their neighborhood. People of means can take legal action to prevent that, but aren’t generally bothered about where it does end up.

It takes moral and spiritual maturity to value the needs of others as importantly as our own needs – and it’s a lifelong process. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey writes: “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.” At least until we exercise our ability to empathize. When we realize our intentions are invisible to people who suffer from our actions, and our suffering at the hands of others may not be their intent, we achieve a more balanced perspective. If, for example, we are made aware a remark is racist or sexist, we can defend it by explaining our intentions were not so – which tells the other person our intention matters more than their reality – or we can be accountable and do better in the future. If the situation was reversed, which would you prefer? Do that one.

Perhaps the trickiest part of observing the Golden Rule is admitting we don’t always know how we want to be treated. It’s possible your response to the racist/sexist remark question was something like, “I’d brush it off; no big deal.” If so (assuming you are white and/or male), ask yourself if you’d accept being treated as women and people of color have historically been treated.

Self-awareness and empathy are inseparable. Take time to learn what other people need, and you’ll learn more about what you do.

Comfort: Being considerate of others makes you stronger.

Challenge: It’s easy to empathize with people who are similar to us. Ask friends who differ from you in gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, ability, or other ways what they wished you knew.

Prayer:  Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Amen.

Discussion: When do you have trouble empathizing?

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