In fourth grade my teacher, Mrs. Cameron, had the Golden Rule written out and displayed above the chalkboard so we could see it every day. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So each day while I was learning that Columbus discovered America, that 8 x 2 was 16, and that we are one nation under God, I was also trying to fathom the meaning of the word “unto.” I remember she finally took a day to explain the Golden Rule to all of us.
“The Golden Rule,” she explained, “means that you treat other people the way you want to be treated. So if you want people to be nice to you, you must be nice to them. If you want people to be your friends you must be friendly to them. And if you treat people unkindly you are telling them that you expect to be treated unkindly in return. If you don’t want people to be mean to you, stop being mean to them.” Cool. Got it. Makes sense. I can do that. It’s all about being fair. If I steal from someone I am telling them that I expect and am okay with them stealing from me. After all, if I am not okay with that, why would I do it to them? I tucked the Golden Rule into my heart and went on about my life, treating others with kindness, fairness, civility, and love because that’s how I wanted to be treated.
The Golden Rule worked pretty well in fourth grade. Anytime a kid was the slightest bit mean to me I reminded them of the Golden Rule and they changed their behavior. And anytime I even thought about being mean to another kid I asked myself if that’s how I would want to be treated. It was a great check and balance system. I always checked my behavior to make sure it was in alignment with how I wanted to be treated. Sure I made mistakes here and there but for the most part I did pretty well with the Golden Rule and I was very happy to have such a clear cut way of behaving that felt good to me.
Then came high school. Clearly some of these people had not had the benefit of being in Mrs. Cameron’s classroom because this is where I started seeing some of the worst behavior I’d ever seen. I recall one day while waiting with a hundred kids to get into school that a guy turned to me, that I did not know, and said “I’m going to kick your ass after school you f***ing Jew.” I turned around to see who he was talking to but he pointed to me and said, “I’m talking to you, b*tch. I’m going to kick your ass.” I had no idea who this guy was but apparently he knew all he needed to know about me. I was frightened the entire day and made sure all of my male friends were with me after school to take me to my car. I steered clear of that guy the rest of the school year, living in fear that he would remember his threat against me and one day make good on it. There were the cliques, periodic and seemingly random sexual assaults, and fights that broke out over who got to sit where in the cafeteria. It was chaotic, violent, and scary to be in my high school. I kept my head down and tried to learn, but I lived in constant fear of the next random act of violence (physical, emotional, sexual, etc.).
I survived high school and went to college where I also enjoyed random acts of violence and sexual assault but this time committed by so-called “adults.” A little freedom and independence can do wonders for your morality.
But even in high school and college things were tame compared to what I see in the world today.
It’s very easy to lose your faith in the Golden Rule when other people around you are breaking it all the time. After all, why should you be nice, kind and loving when other people are taking advantage of you, stealing, getting away with murder, committing violence, and lying; especially when some of these people are your world leaders or clergymen?
Because I live very closely aligned with the Golden Rule I don’t understand things like guns, bombs, and war. I know I don’t want anyone to shoot me, bomb me, or invade my homeland so I can’t fathom doing it to anyone else.
Before I take any action towards someone else I always ask myself if what I’m about to do is something I would want done to me. If the answer is no, I find another way to express myself. I’m not perfect by any means, but I am usually aware when I’m breaking the Golden Rule and spend some time thinking about how to improve.
I am greatly pained when I see adults violating the basic rules of decency that we try to teach our children.
Can you imagine what our world would be like if everyone followed the Golden Rule? I think about this a lot. There would be no need for prisons, there would be no war. Decency and civility would be the order of the day, not back stabbing, violence, and deceit. People would be more fair, just, merciful, and compassionate. And there would be a lot more love in the world by far.
Do you believe in the Golden Rule? Do you follow its tenet? When other people mistreat you do you assume they are asking to be treated the same way, and if so do you comply by getting revenge on them and violating your own honor? Even when other people mistreat me I still feel bound to adhere to the Golden Rule even if they aren’t. Someone’s got to set the example. Especially for our children and the future of our world.
I am so grateful to Mrs. Cameron for posting the Golden Rule in my fourth-grade classroom. That was possibly the most important lesson I learned that entire year…