Does anyone remember learning “The Golden Rule” in grade school? Do they even teach that anymore? Often when I look at the things going on around me, I wonder if the Golden Rule was just a Fairy Tale. But I spent some time considering what things might look like if everyone really lived by this strange rule. I came to some interesting conclusions and I can’t wait to share the shocking truth about the Golden Rule with you today.
I think I remember hearing this rule first presented in my first grade class with Mrs. King. Mrs. King was a unique teacher who took the time to pray with us before class each day. Of course this was back in the sixties when it was still OK to pray in school; at least for a while. I vividly remember the day we started class without prayer. When someone asked why, Mrs. King told us with tears in her eyes we were no longer permitted to do that.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
She was, however a staunch proponent of The Golden Rule. It was written on the blackboard in the front of the room and she reminded us of it often. I still remember how strange the idea sounded to me; I’m not sure I fully understood how it worked. My initial idea was more of a manipulative nature. If I shared my cookies with you, that “obligated” you to share them with me. Or if I saved your place in line, you would then save mine, right? You know, I did “unto you”, so now you’ll do “unto me”.
Where did the golden rule come from?
Today, the Golden Rule is referred to as a quaint “maxim” associated with many religions and cultures. You can find it stated positively, “treat others as you would like them to treat you”. The negative version looks like this: “Do not treat others the way you would not like them to treat you”. You can also state it in an emphatic form; “What you wish on others, you wish on yourself.” No one really knows the true origin of this maxim except to say that you can find it in one form or another just about everywhere you go.
I have to say once I left Mrs. King’s class I seldom heard anything more about it. Truthfully I doubt I missed it; I hadn’t found it worked out too well for me. As an adult, I came across Matthew 7:12 in the Bible: “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.” I admit I never knew Mrs. King’s Golden Rule was found in the Bible. I know people argue it’s not the same, but it seems clear to me. At any rate, it seemed a good first stop to discovering the shocking truth about the Golden Rule.
As I considered this verse as an adult, I realized it held more than my initial understanding of the Golden Rule. The reference to “all the law and the prophets” led me to a deeper study of what meaning this verse held. Later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus clarifies what this phrase means in Matthew 22:36-40. When asked which commandment was greatest He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, stating to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. He then added to love your neighbor as yourself. Adding that all the “law and prophets” were summarized in those two commandments.
“Don’t wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous or friendly…LEAD the way!”
Golden Rule Expanded
That certainly gave me something to think about. There seemed to be more to this idea of the Golden Rule than just being nice to people in the hope that they would be nice back. So few words, yet so much to ponder. Jesus clearly predated Mrs. King’s Golden Rule, and not only that, He set the bar much higher than the Golden Rule.
He forces a change in perspective; first, love GOD with all of your being, then from that place, love your neighbor as yourself. To make sure those listening to Him understood, He re-framed the second part by saying “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we treat them the way we want to be treated.
“Helping other people can be a cure, not just for those who are in need, but for your soul as well.”
the shocking truth about the golden rule
Considering what I learned in my Bible study of these verses, I realized the Golden Rule was merely a shadow of a much more brilliant concept. Additionally, I now understood the foundation for the Golden Rule was love. But no wishy-washy love, no “I’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to me” love. Real love that begins with GOD.
Loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength positions me to love my neighbor as myself. This is the sum total of God’s law. The shocking truth about the Golden Rule is the power of love. We don’t need a big set of regulations; do this, don’t do that. We truly love others as we desire to be loved; with humility, gentleness, and patience. Who doesn’t want to be loved like that? This love brings healing, comfort in suffering and lifts others up.
the beauty of self forgetfulness
Focusing on loving GOD above all else, and subsequently loving my neighbor as myself, resets my priorities. In this I learn the beauty of self forgetfulness; my focus shifts from my needs to the needs of others. I determine to make sure they have what I want; I meet their needs the way I want mine met. As I make this shift in perspective, others become more important and I serve out of love.
This results in self forgetfulness instead of a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. The Golden Rule often led me astray thinking if I treated you the way I “expected” you to treat me, you would “have to” return the favor. For example, I’m shamed to admit how many times I gave a gift to someone, secretly expecting they would reciprocate. Or how many times I invited someone over hoping they would then invite me over to their home.
The Shocking Results of Living the Golden Rule
The most amazing result I found by living out the shocking truth about the Golden Rule was it changed me. At first glance you might think all this loving GOD and loving others stuff sets your needs aside. But it’s really the opposite. Loving in this way not only meets the needs of others and lifts them up, you end up meeting your own needs in the process.
My advice to all newlyweds is always the same: meet the needs of your spouse and your needs will always be met. And this advice is not just for newlyweds; this works in any relationship. As I love GOD, His love flows back through me out to others. You cannot lose in this transaction; because it’s GOD’s law. Even if your “neighbor” doesn’t follow the Golden Rule or appreciate your loving them as you love yourself, GOD will see that your actions are rewarded.
When I stopped focusing on whether “my neighbor” deserved my love and service or would reciprocate in kind, I truly loved. This love transformed me from self focus, and anxiety about my own needs and allowed me to be the answer to someone else’s prayer. As I surrendered to this way of loving, I found healing, comfort and saw all my needs met. What would happen if we took the shocking truth of the Golden Rule seriously and began living it today? How much suffering could we relieve for others and ourselves?
“In the end nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as the way we have loved one another.”Daphne Rose Kingma