The Golden Rule can tell you what matters to others

Is there a standard for how a Christ-follower is supposed to treat people? I mean, we’re supposed to love each other. That much is obvious. But there are different ways to demonstrate love, and it varies from person to person.

The Bible has so many practical solutions in its pages, and I’m so thankful. A cerebral answer to a question like that wouldn’t help much. And what’s interesting is that just about everybody knows this particular standard, whether they read (or even believe) the Bible at all.

bench-sea-sunny-man_1473x976Today’s verse is Matthew 7:12.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Everybody knows the Golden Rule. It’s one of those cultural things we talk about all the time, but even though we talk about it a lot, we don’t always keep to it. Why? Because it’s hard!

It’s really difficult to treat other people with the same regard that you have for yourself. I mean, it’s easy to give yourself another chance when you screw up. After all, you know your own heart. You know you didn’t mean to do it. But when someone else screws up? That’s unacceptable.

We’ve all been there.

But there’s another aspect to the Golden Rule that I hadn’t really considered. The Golden Rule can tell you what matters to other people. It’s not just how you’re supposed to act, but it’s also about how you should treat other people. Maybe those revelations sound identical, but they’re very different.

Let’s say that you are having a really bad day, and your friend brings you flowers to cheer you up. And you appreciate it. It’s thoughtful, but quite honestly, you don’t do flowers. You don’t really like them. And they make you sneeze. So while you are grateful for the thought, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to you.

But stop for a minute and think about what just happened. Your friend wanted to cheer you up, so he/she brought you flowers because flowers mean something to him/her. What does this have to do with the Golden Rule? Well, your friend would want someone to bring him/her flowers on  a bad day, so that’s why he/she did it for you. Now you know that. So tuck it away. Maybe you’d never give someone flowers ordinarily because you find them annoying, but your friend likes them.

People aren’t mind readers, you know, and many times I think we do things for other people based on what makes us happy.

Now, we shouldn’t only do kind things for other people because we want them to be kind to us. We should be kind because God says it’s what we should do. And, truthfully, it’s better if you just communicate with each other. But people don’t really communicate anymore. And even when we do, there’s still some kind of disconnect that prevents us from saying what we really mean. So you have to learn to listen to the things people don’t say.

Maybe what that person in your life did for you doesn’t resonate with your desires. Maybe it wasn’t anything close to what you would do for someone else or what you would expect someone to do for you. But the principle of the Golden Rule is that it’s not about you anyway.

So pay attention to how others treat you and what others do for you. They may be telling you without words how you can be a blessing to them. And there’s really nothing more awesome than being a blessing to someone else.

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Reciprocity

My brain was like mush last night. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it was work, which seems to be getting busier and crazier every day, or maybe it was the weather, since I seem to get clouds in my brain when there’s an abundance of them in the sky. In either case, I had planned to get a lot of writing done last night, but with my brain feeling foggy I knew it wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to watch a movie. I wanted something that was fast paced but still full of plot detail to keep me thinking about the story; so I knew I only had one option — a Jack Ryan movie. It had been ages since I watched Clear and Present Danger, so that was the winner.

It’s a really great movie, if you haven’t seen it. Patriot Games, the prequel, is also excellent. So is The Hunt for Red October. And The Sum of All Fears is okay. Clear and Present Danger has a lot of explosions and a lot of action (which is my kind of movie), but the story is also really intense and the characters are great (which is my defnition of a spectacular film).

I laughed this morning when I read the verse of the day in Matthew 7:12.

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

It’s the Golden Rule. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. I laughed because it made me think of Reciprocity, which is the code name for the covert operations the U.S. government runs in Columbia in Clear and Present Danger. In the movie, the government sent them down there to disrupt the drug trade; that’s what they said, but the true motivation for it was revenge. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. When the soldiers attack something, the drug lords reciprocate, which means the soliders have to reciprocate for their reciprocation. And it continues into a huge vicious cycle until everything blows up in the end and Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) has to save the day.

Think about that in real life, though? How much of life is the exact same way? How many fights could we avoid by simply allowing someone else to win? And, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t stand for something. Everyone has to stand for something, but we all should think about how we stand for it.

What goes around comes around. You reap what you sew.Yada yada yada. You’ve heard all the cliches, including the Golden Rule. But no matter how cliched they are, they’re true.

How many times would you have liked for your boss to be nice to you? How many times would you have liked for your friends to listen to you? How many times would you have liked for your coworkers to respect you? Well . . . he’s a thought. How do you treat them? Are you mean and subversive to your boss? Do you ever listen to your friends? Do you respect the people you work with? Isn’t it possible that some of the frustrations you feel in life are brought on by your own reaction to people and situations?

Granted, there are times when you can be as nice and thoughtful to people as humanly possible and they are still jerks to you. But is that any reason to be cruel back to them?

Honestly, what good does being mean to people do you? Yes, it might satisfy that dark part in your heart that wants to lash out at people and make them feel as hurt as you are. And it might make your friends laugh at your boldness. And it might make you look stronger to everyone around you, but are you really stronger for trying to hurt someone? Isn’t it more difficult to take the high road and be the person God made you to be? The only thing being mean does is make you mean.

I think it’s funny that Jesus was into summarizing. In a single sentence here he summarized most of the Old Testament. Elsewhere in the New Testament, he did it again summarizing the Ten Commandments. Basically He said to love God and love people. That’s the secret to a fulfilling life. That’s the kind of reciprocity that will get you something nice in return, because even if you love the people who refuse to love you back, you’ll be glad you did in the next life.

And the bonus is that you’ll just be a generally nicer person while you’re still alive in this life.

So, if you don’t want drug lords to blow you up, don’t blow them up first. And if you want IT to fix your computer, make them cookies (my favorite boss in the whole wide world taught me that). And if you want your friends to listen to what’s going on in your life, you start listening first. And if you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them even when they’re not nice to you. Trust me. You’ll feel a lot better than if you give in and scream back at them, even if they’re being complete buttheads.

You never know what you’ll get in return, but chances are if you started with kindness, that’ll be what you get back.