by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” – Christianity
“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Buddhism
“What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” – Judaism
“No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” – Islam
“Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” – Baha’i Faith
“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.” – A Course in Miracles
We were all taught the Golden Rule, no matter where we were raised or our religious background. The idea of doing to others only what we would want done to ourselves is understood by even those with no religious background — it’s just what decent people do. But though we have heard this rule since time immemorial does not make it an old or out-dated concept — to the contrary, this concept is our salvation. The fact that it is stated in every religion and taught in every culture shows us its universal truth. It seems to make sense to our collective consciousness, so perhaps it’s time to practice it if we have been remiss as of late…and who among us has not?
In this day and age, with all that is happening in our world, it might be good for us to revisit the Golden Rule. Perhaps you try to apply the Golden Rule, but you don’t see much grace given back to you. Where’s the equity?
As Course students, we are reminded that forgiveness is the key to happiness, that the world of pain and suffering is not real, and that we are entitled to miracles. But if we are not feeling these truths, have we failed? Are we supposed to deny our feelings, if we really do feel upset and frustrated?
The Course tells us the world is not real. As a matter of fact, it says there is no world; it’s a projection of our thinking. I find the deep metaphysics of the Course fascinating and I love discussing it, but it’s probably not the most helpful thing to tell someone who’s in deep distress that all this is not real – especially when their pain seems very real to them.
In The Song of Prayer we read, “There are decisions to make here [in the world], and they must be made whether they are illusions or not.” As long as we have given the world value in our minds (and if you are reading this, you have given the world value), then to deny this experience is an unhelpful form of denial. That being said, we are asked to begin the process of releasing our attachment to the world of form, but we can’t do that alone.
The Course tells us we believe in the problem (we made it – as hard as that may be for us to wrap our minds around) and therefore we need help from outside of the problem so we can begin to question its power over us. That’s where God comes in. He has given us the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God within, the spark of sanity in our crazy minds, to look with us at what we have given value to and say, as the Course counsels us in Lesson 134, “My brother, what you think is not the truth.” It is just this type of “doubt” that begins the dawn of sanity.
The Course values our peace and happiness far more than we do. But the overarching need that should be addressed is: Are we at peace or can we ever be at peace (or even happy) when we are angry, hateful, or vindictive toward another? Can separating ourselves with our “rights” and “wrongs” from another part of society help us to feel lasting peace and happiness?
All through A Course in Miracles we read different forms of the Golden Rule:
“Today I learn the law of love; that what I give my brother is my gift to me.” (L344)
“My sinless brother is my guide to peace. My sinful brother is my guide to pain. And which I choose to see I will behold.” (L351)
“Teach no one that he is what you would not want to be. Your brother is the mirror in which you see the image of yourself.” (T7.VII.3:8-9)
“You understand that you are healed when you give healing. You accept forgiveness as accomplished in yourself when you forgive. You recognize your brother as yourself, and thus do you perceive that you are whole.” (L159)
“…exempt no one from your love, or you will be hiding a dark place in your mind where the Holy Spirit is not welcome. And thus you will exempt yourself from His healing power, for by not offering total love you will not be healed completely.” (T13.III.9:2-3)
These are just a few of the hundreds of places in the Course in which we are told that our salvation lies in how we treat each other and even how we think about each other.
In his book, Saved by the Light, author Dannion Brinkley tells about the two near-death experiences which transformed his life. These near-death experiences taught him first-hand not only the importance of the Golden Rule, but that there was really no other way to live — what we do to others, we actually experience ourselves.
In the story, we see Brinkley as a man who has always lived his life for himself. He is a mean, vindictive person. He loves to pick fights and sees no value in kindness or charity. His near-death experience happens as the result of being struck by lightning, which leaves him dead for twenty-eight minutes. During this experience, he is “shown” his life up to this point. He not only sees all the vicious acts that he perpetrated on others, but he literally feels the pain he has inflicted on them. The pain is excruciating. He is then told that love is the way to live. This experience informs him that we are all powerful spiritual beings, and he is being sent back to his earthly life because he is not done with this experience.
Once back in his body, he finds himself in great pain and very confused. Not only does his body need to heal (after all he was struck by lightning), but he also has to heal his mind by changing the way he treats others. There are other points to Brinkley’s story, and you might want to read the book, if you are interested, but the point I want to make is that the interconnectedness that we all share, he felt first-hand. The hurtful things he had done to others, he physically felt; and the loving things he did, he felt as well.
Well, you can imagine, as his story progresses, he begins helping others — offering his loving support and kindness. As “fate” would have it, he encounters another near-death experience, and is again shown his life. This time, he not only reviews the first part of his life with the painful acts he did but now he sees and feels the loving things he has done since his last near-death experience, and he feels great joy. There is no longer a choice for him — love is the only way to live his life. He cannot see another’s needs or hurts as apart from him. He cannot treat another with hate or cruelty and not feel their pain. He has felt another’s pain and joy and knows it is his as well.
The Course tells us over and over again that we are our brother — there is no separation. And it tells us that we cannot know our Self or God if we see ourselves or our needs as separate from another. Until we start applying the Golden Rule to all situations, we are not living, because we are not really alive — how can there be life when we are cut off from our Source, which is God, and, in a practical sense, our brother? As the Course tells us, “I cannot come to You [God] without my brother. And to know my Source [God], I first must recognize what You [God] created one with me. My brother’s is the hand that leads me on the way to You[God].” (W-288)
So the next time you feel depressed, angry, or unhappy, check to see if you have missed a chance to apply the Golden Rule. How do we choose the Golden Rule when we think we are so right in our views? Well, perhaps with just a little willingness and a prayer like this:
“Father, help me to see this person as you see them, so that I may be joined with them and not apart. I want to know my Self and You, so I am willing to know my brother.”
Then let God do the rest. Don’t try to figure out how He should do His job (how He can make that person acceptable in your sight). Just be willing to let His Will be done through you. He knows the Golden Rule works … now let Him show you it does as well.