Finding Your Way to a Better Day- The G-rule
If you took all of the major religions and attempted to establish one central value that existed in all of them, one constant that every religion would agree with, you would find the Golden Rule. Karen Armstrong, an expert on Religious Studies suggests in her book, The 12 steps to a Compassionate Life, that the Golden Rule is really all that matters when you get right down to how we live our lives and that every major religion acknowledges some form of the Golden Rule. For those of you not familiar with the Golden Rule it goes like this, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. Or, in the negative, “Do not treat others as you would not like to be treated”.
When it comes to reducing suffering, the G-rule is powerful.
Karen Armstrong points out that compassion for others is just as natural for humans as aggression. If we choose to be compassionate rather than aggressive, we have that capacity and ability to do so. Aggression, at times, protects us from danger and is needed. But compassion toward others is by far the most sustainable and healthy approach toward others. Aggression brings about aggression. Compassion brings about compassion, which is what we all want from each other. Choosing compassion is choosing to personally suffer less. When humans exercise compassion, they are reducing their suffering by letting go of the need to punish or hold others accountable. Applying justice to others is one of the most significant vehicles that suffering will catch a ride on.
When I think of the Golden Rule and the implication of its application in society, I think about the health care dilemma in our country right now. If I were a parent living in the USA and had very few financial resources, how would I feel if I couldn’t go to the doctor or couldn’t take my child to the doctor because I had no money? I would feel embarrassed, ashamed, angry, vulnerable, and scared. The anxiety of being vulnerable weighs heavily on humans. Millions of the working poor are vulnerable and struggling. So, as a society, can we stop long enough to consider the Golden Rule in this instance? If every voting citizen in America stopped and simply asked, “If I were a parent and had a sick child that I was not able to help medically, how would I want to be treated?”
I was recently shopping at the mall. When I walked out of the building to go to my car, a local charity was asking for donations to their cause. I reached into my wallet to pull out a dollar bill but all I had were twenties and one ten. I didn’t want to give ten dollars. Not that I couldn’t afford ten but I was being selfish with my resources at the time. As I realized that I didn’t have the proper denomination to place in the bucket, I looked at the person collecting the money and said I didn’t have the proper change. I was embarrassed and apparently the collector was aware of this. He put his arm on my shoulder and with the most compassionate smile, simply said, “It’s ok, It’s ok”.
It is difficult to describe the feeling I had at that moment. Maybe I was expecting him to be more shaming or coercive so that his bucket would be more impressively filled, but he was the exact opposite. He had compassion for a selfish soul. His kindness is remembered and continues to be a positive snapshot in my memory. Compassion reduces suffering.
Psychologically, the Golden Rule is incredibly powerful for your mood. It moves the most hardened soul to contemplate a different path. Compassion and kindness break through the angry barrier of long-standing feuds and reduce otherwise stubborn people to break free of their anger and consider a new strategy. It is difficult to be feel depressed when you are practicing compassion.
Treating others the way you want to be treated. How simple yet life-changing. Think about how your personal emotional suffering is reduced when you decide to be compassionate. The G-rule is not only for the person who needs compassion. It is for the person being compassionate. This is one path to Find Your Way to a Better Day!