The Golden Rule Isn’t Cute

By Jeremy Gulley


I first heard about the Golden Rule as a young child. When people treated me mean, or if they were having a bad day, my teachers or parents would tell me: “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.” To me that meant I was supposed to give them a break, ignore their emotional issues, and forgive them for being hard to get along with.

As I grew into an adult, I soon realized that the Golden Rule is not a cute saying to help us get along with other people when they are mean to us. It is, instead, a way to tip the scale of equality in our relationships in favor of the other person.

The Golden Rule is found in just about every religion in the world, but for my purpose I’ll use the version from the Christian Bible. What does the Bible say about the Golden Rule? Luke 6:31 gives us “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” This passage, taken on its own, does quickly become a cute saying for how to be nice to people. But what if we look a little deeper? Just before the Golden Rule, we find an explanation: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

This isn’t cute, is it?

The verses before the Golden Rule give us a command to do more than just be nice. This point is illustrated by the story of Elmer Bendiner.

During World War II, Elmer and a few other air force personnel were aboard their B-17 bomber. While they were flying over Germany, their plane was shelled by Nazi anti-aircraft guns. The fuel tanks were hit, but the plane did not explode, to their surprise. The next morning the pilot of the plane asked for the shell that struck the plane. He wanted to keep it as a souvenir to celebrate the good luck of the plane and the crew. The pilot was told that the plane was not struck by just one shell, but that 11 shells struck the plane, and none exploded.

To figure out what happened, the shells were sent to be defused and analyzed. As the men were defusing the shells, they discovered that there was no explosive charge in any of the shells. Instead, the shells each contained a carefully rolled piece of paper on which were written, in Czech: “This is all we can do for you now.”

The miracle had not been one of misfired shells, but of peace-loving Czech hearts who purposefully filled their shells with notes of peace rather than explosives.

This story is not an example of a cute way to handle people that are mean to us. This story illustrates the Golden Rule as it should be, a command to go out and actively be nice to people who we don’t want to be nice to. It is a command to tip the scales of a relationship in the other persons’ favor. It is a command to fill the shells of our bullets with messages of forgiveness and peace rather than explosives.




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Posted by admin on Mar 30 2011. Filed under Jeremy Gulley, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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