Friday, December 19, 2008

tarnishing the golden rule

I've been trying to be nicer lately and through my efforts I have realized, kindness is not one of my strongest virtues. It does not really come naturally to me. I want to be kind but, most of time, only to those who are kind to me first. As a child, I remember thinking that it was my duty to live out the golden rule by treating those who were mean, mean in return so they would be treated as they wanted to be. Isn't that what it says? It took me awhile to realize that this is NOT what Jesus teaches. Now, as an adult, it is more obvious to me that He wants us to look at our own behavior, as He said, treat others the way we want to be treated. He certainly did not mean we should treat others the way they have treated us so that they can learn the consequences of their actions.
In addition to the golden rule, Jesus commands us to love God, then to love our neighbor as ourselves. Since kindness is sometimes a bit of a struggle for me I often times don't get around to the 2nd part of the command. I love God, I really do. I pray, I go to church, I read the Bible. Loving God, Who is perfect and Who loves me unconditionally is really not too hard. And I love a lot of others. Loving my friends, my husband, my children, who are all loving and kind to me, is really quite easy as well. But then there are all those other others, the ones who are not so nice to me and the ones who are just plain mean to me, and the ones who ignore me completely. Those are the "neighbors" I have a lot of trouble loving. Jesus knows this. He knows that loving our enemies does not come naturally. He knows we do not usually want to be kind to those others. Yet we are all God's children. We are all His creations. We can only show our love for God if we not only love Him but also all those He created.
When discussing this very topic with a priest recently he asked me how I would explain this little discrepancy to God on judgment day. How will I account for the lack of love I feel towards those who do not treat me the way I want to be treated? Who will I claim is responsible? Oh! Well, when you put it that way, I guess I really do get it. If I am not kind to others, how can I expect them to be kind to me? And will we ever get anywhere if we play that game my children often play- he started it! no, she did! no I didn't, he did- ?
So, though I've tried to find a loophole, there is no way around it. We must live by the golden rule and love our neighbors. It will never guarantee that we will always be treated with kindness ourselves. But on judgment day, I will only have to account for my actions, not for how they were received by others!

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