“When you throw a stone at God, it lands right on top of your head.” – African proverb
Oftentimes, we are quick to criticise others without making any kind of effort to understand them, or even pause to reflect on how our criticism of them will affect them. Interestingly, and quite often, the circumstances that spark our disparagement of others are trivial. A person might dress in a way that is different from how we would have them dress. They might be eating in a manner that we feel should not be as such. Or they might even be laughing about issues we think they should take seriously. These and many other relatively minor mannerisms of others in our daily lives have the potential to make us criticise them.
But if we take time to reflect on what our denigration of others does to them, and what we reveal about ourselves when our refusal to seek understanding leads us to be unkind to the world, then maybe we can all help to improve life. We are dependent beings. In fact, we need each other to flourish. That is why all the world religions have always decreed compassion as the baseline behaviour in all our interactions. Life is a priceless concept. It is so valuable that every single life should be supported in every way to enable its flourishing. Can you imagine the kind of synergy we would have if we ennobled all lives? Our homes, our workplaces, our communities and our societies would have the semblance of paradise. And our humanity would be so harmonious, the average lifespan could potentially double.
This is the vision of the Golden rule. It is a ‘luminous and dynamic force’ staring us in the face, begging us to give it a shot. Maybe we have not given it much thought, but to “do unto others whatever we would have them do to us” is the way of love. It is hewn out of our deep interdependency and presented to enable us live by example, to seek the common and greater good for all, to shun exploitation in all its forms, and to create an enabling environment for everyone to do as well as we do, in order for harmony and peace to envelop all our interactions. Truthfully, it is a call for us to rise above ourselves and attain wholeness.
Commonsense tells us that the rule of compassion generates the greatest accord for our humanity’s flourishing. Interestingly, “commonsense is not so common” – as Voltaire the French philosopher observed. That is why we have swept the golden rule under the carpet and created our own, which sounds more like “life is a competitive endeavour, wherein you have to win, to be first, and be the best”. But to what end? Why would you choose a life that makes you hurt others? Why would you choose an option that shortens your lifespan? Life is a holy concept, so why do we “throw it to the dogs?”. The best they will do is to trample it underfoot, and then turn and tear us to pieces.
The good news is that we all know that “everyone else is doing their best, even if they fall short sometimes”. So, we know deep down in our hearts that given the opportunity, many who are impoverished now will flourish. Why then would we not create that enabling environment? All it takes is exhibiting the simple human dignity of kindness. It is time for us to give the best of ourselves in every interaction – whether at home or in the workplace, in private and in public; and then we can be assured that our best will be good enough to create the synergy that creates paradise.
“Doing unto others what we would want them to do to us” might sound lofty, but it is not impossible. On the contrary, it is easy if we come to an understanding that we cannot continue hurting ourselves. We have done that for too long, and we have not achieved much. We all believe, individually, we are special; and we actually want to be treated specially. But we can only receive that treatment when we start behaving as special individuals. When we start treating others in a special way, so that they in turn can reciprocate what we are doing for them. That is how easy it is for the golden rule to come into effect. And it is contained in a summary of the teachings of all faiths: “When we behave wonderfully all day, every day, we will end up being wonderful and receiving wonderful treatment”.
Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and helps them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]