The Golden Rule Revisited

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. Even those of us with no religious background understand the idea of only doing to others what we would want to be done to us — it’s just what decent people do. But just because we have heard this rule since time immemorial does not make it an old or outdated concept — to the contrary, this concept is our salvation.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. There is a lot of anger and defensiveness in our world. Many who want things to go their way will go as far as to threaten violence and bodily harm to those who do not agree with them. Frustration with the “others” out there seems to justify, in some minds, even death to get what they want.

Years ago, when the Dalai Lama was asked why he did not fight back against the Chinese when they exiled him from Tibet, he quipped, “War is obsolete, you know!” But then he became more serious and said the mind can always justify fighting back, but the heart would never understand it. Then the war would be within yourself — between your heart and your mind.

For so many of us today, there is a war going on within us. It is the war between our hearts and our minds. We feel hate and disdain for others, and it seems to be supported by many voices in our society. But this justification leaves us exhausted and depressed, and it solves nothing. There is no one voice in the world that will answer our frustrations and sorrows. We have to finally turn within to the One Voice of unity and love.

As students of A Course in Miracles, we are told that forgiveness is the key to happiness, that the world of pain and suffering is not our reality, and that we are entitled to miracles. But if we are not feeling this awareness, 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 profound 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 be 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 it alone.

The Course tells us we believe in the problem because we made it and therefore believe in it. Because of our “faith” in our problems, we need Help from outside of the problem so we can begin to question its power and hold over us. That’s where God comes in. He has given us the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love 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 workbook 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 what really should be addressed is: Are we at peace, or can we ever be at peace (or happy) when we are angry, attacking, or vindictive toward another? Can separating ourselves by 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.” (W-344)

“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.” (W-351)

“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.” (W-159)

“…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 thousands of places in the Course where we are told that our salvation lies in how we treat each other and even how we think about each other.

In the book, Saved by the Light, author Dannion Brinkley tells about the two near-death experiences which transformed his life. These experiences taught him first-hand not only the importance of the Golden Rule, but that there is 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 he doesn’t care who he hurts as long as he is the victor. He 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 brutal acts that he perpetrated on others, but he literally feels the pain he has inflicted on them. The pain is excruciating. He is told that love is the way to live and that we all are powerful spiritual beings. He is being sent back to his life because he is not done with this life experience.

Once back in his body, he is in great pain and very confused. Not only does his body need to heal (after all, he was struck by lightning), but he has to heal his mind by changing the way he treats others. The book’s main point is that he felt first-hand the interconnectedness that we all share. The hurtful things he had done to others, he felt, and the loving things he did (even though they were minor), he felt as well. The difference between the two feelings is stark and apparent.

As you can imagine, the experience changes his life. As his story progresses, he begins helping others — offering his loving support and kindness. He has another near-death experience, and he is again shown his life in review. This time, he not only experiences the first part of his life with the painful acts he engaged in 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 need or suffering as apart from him. He cannot treat another with hate or cruelty and not feel the same agony. He has felt another’s pain as well as their joy and knows it is his as well.

The Course repeatedly reminds us 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. Unless 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 of life, 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 created one with me. My brother’s is the hand that leads me on the way to You.” (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 from the Course:

“I would see you as my friend, that I may remember you are part of me and come to know myself.” (W-68)

Then let God’s Answer do the rest. Do not 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.

“Because I will to know myself, I see you as God’s Son and my brother.” (T-9.II.12:6)

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