Wednesday, July 1, 2009

37) The Golden Rule

"In everything do to others, as you would have them do to you." Matt.7:12
"Do naught to others, which if done to thee would cause thee pain." Hindu Philosophy
"What is hurtful to yourself, do not do to your fellowmen." Jewish Talmud
"What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." Confucius
"Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and regard your neighbor's loss as your own loss." Taoist saying
The purpose of reproducing the five quotations, on the same thought, is to highlight
their universal appeal, not bound by religion or culture.

When we compare human interaction to a coin, on the one side, we have kind thoughts, words and deeds, which merit praise; on the other side, we have unkind thoughts, words and deeds, which crave forgiveness. Put differently, Praise and Forgiveness are the secrets to successful interactions; the essence of the Golden Rule. If only we affirm that we yearn for praise when we perform well and expect encouragement in our struggle, we can relate to the same 'longing' in others. Just as we want forgiveness for our lapses and misdeeds, others too hope to have their wrongs forgiven, though such forgiveness is not always requested. The Golden Rule is the practical expression of God's command that we love one another. When we love one another, we will find ways to demonstrate that love through praise and forgiveness. Seneca gave definite meaning to this situation, when he wrote: "Whenever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness"; there is an opportunity for kindness through praise and forgiveness; there is an opportunity to live the Golden Rule.

If this belief is rooted in us, we will find ways to canalize it to our children, who will need it in every situation of their lives. This responsibility cannot be passed to schools or to Moral Instructors; it rests with us. In instructing our children, we could learn from an ancient Hawaiian family ritual of forgiveness, conducted once a year, or more often, if necessary. The head of the family calls everyone together. All who wish to be part of that family come. The first part of the rite is a prayer that everyone present be honest and open. The ancient Hawaiians
believed that truthfulness and sincerity had to be rocks on which relationships were
built. After the prayer, the head of the family starts on the second part - an honest
admission of all wrongdoings, grievances and resentments. If restitution is in order, it is done immediately, or plans are made to have it done in the near future.
The third part of the rite is forgiveness. Hawaiians view this part as the release
from all tension, resentment and guilt, in the family. Then the head of the family makes it clear that the disputes in the family are over, finished and forgotten, never to be brought up again. The person forgiven no longer bears the burden of guilt; the person forgiving no longer carries the weight of resentment. They know that they need God's help, so the ritual ends with a prayer that love and God's peace reside in the family. What strikes us in this edifying ritual is that the family(not just an individual), has honesty of purpose, courage to admit to wrongdoing, sincerity and nobility in forgiving misdeeds and the resolve to forget what is forgiven. Would to God that Modern Society emulated the Hawaiians! Peace would reign.

Goethe's logic adds substance to what we have seen. "I see no fault that I might not have committed myself." We are vulnerable; so are others. When such kind thoughts occupy our minds, we will be less harsh in condemning others who err.

Retribution, the opposite of forgiveness, does not make sense, for good reason:
1) From experience we know that retaliation is possible only with those who are weaker than we are. With those who are powerful(e.g.,the boss)we are afraid to take revenge because of adverse consequences. So, spitting venom on the weak exposes our weakness and cowardice. Certainly, we do not want our children to be labelled 'cowards'.
2) Medical findings prove that stoking grudges in our hearts, burns up our health, ruins our performance and unsettles our disposition. Therefore it does make sense to drain out grudges and fill our hearts with forgiveness and goodwill. When our children learn to forgive, they will enjoy better health and better relationships.
3) Vengeance is a never ending business. A family feud passes from father to son, to son. When will it stop? The 100 years war in England, which went on mindlessly, just to settle scores, proved nothing. Let us pledge that our children will not receive
a baggage of vengeance from us, as a legacy.
4) Retaliation is another form of 'stooping to conquer'. We descend from the pedestals, we imagine we occupy, to indulge in murderous plots. Certainly not in good taste; not becoming of us who espouse nobler aspirations. Let our bad example not corrupt our children.

The reasons could go on. We shall put an end to them citing the example of the Korean mother, whose only son was killed, stabbed 17 times. She was filled with rage and hate and wished all kinds of harm to befall the killer, until she reluctantly joined a prayer meeting. As she prayed for consolation, she was inspired to stand up and shout forgiveness. Then in a change of heart, she visited the killer in prison to tell him of her plan to adopt him as her son. Imagine the turmoil in the mind of the killer!

We need God's help to forgive. He is never found wanting. Our children need our help
to learn how to forgive. Will we be found wanting?

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