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The Golden Rule

I’ve been thinking about the Golden Rule lately, and it’s confusing and difficult for me. It’s also confusing and difficult to express.

I am fairly certain that this post will come across as whining and petulant. Who knows, maybe it is – but I don’t think so, and that’s not the intent with which it’s being written.

Here’s what I know of the Golden Rule, offhand:

Somewhere in Judaism’s past, the “Silver Rule” came into being. It’s pretty simple, and pretty ethical, and actually pretty awe-inspiring in scope – as in, “Why didn’t people think this already?” The Silver Rule is this: “Do not do to others what you would not have done to you.

So if you really don’t appreciate the idea of someone walking behind you and bonking you in the head with a shoe… don’t go around walking up behind someone else and bonking them with a shoe. It’s a simple way to restrain dumb and potentially harmful impulses. Don’t take advantage of something for your own gain or amusement if you wouldn’t like someone else doing the same thing over you.

It’s essentially a negative rule, a restriction: do not do something if it fits this simple criteria. If you wouldn’t appreciate it, assume others wouldn’t appreciate it, and hold off, you goober.

Jesus Christ, however, recorded something that I honestly think is better, the “Golden Rule.” It’s worded positively instead of negatively.

The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’m probably paraphrasing; it’s Matthew 7:12 in the Christian Bible, if you want to look it up and verify.

It’s a positive requirement. Figure out what someone might want, and do it, as opposed to the Silver Rule’s far more passive form of “Figure out what you don’t want, and avoid doing that.”

So far, there’s nothing petulant or whiny in this post, and I’m glad for that.

Here’s where this post gets whiny. Again, I’m not trying to complain, I’m just speaking from my own experience, and I’m personalizing it because it’s me. I thought of trying to write a story to illustrate the point, but I’m just too tired.

I try to follow the Golden Rule. I really do. I think that Jesus had the right idea of it, and if we all tried to follow it, the world would be a better place. Maybe it wouldn’t be healed, but it’d be a better place.

I look at those friends I can identify and attach to – which isn’t easy, because I’m not a person who forms attachments easily. Innately, I tend to have two friends at any given time in my life.

I am at war with myself over things like that. Right now I have … gosh, nearly twenty people I’ve forced myself to see as my “inner circle.”

TWENTY. I … when I tried to do a count, and came up with that, I was stunned. I’m still stunned as I write this, actually. For me, having that many people to actually care about is pure and simple madness. Insanity. Daunting beyond belief. Impossible, really.

Really. And truly. Impossible. I can’t do it.

And I don’t say that because I’m trying to get sympathy or whatever – it’s an admission of failure, not a cry for attention. It’s a flaw in my psyche that I can’t actually do it.

But I’m trying anyway.

So the question is: what does it mean to be in my “inner circle?” It means that I try to keep in mind your struggles and triumphs, and share in your burdens. I know details about where you’re employed, what you do, what you care about, what your goals are, what you’re going through. Certainly not every detail – I don’t know exactly which elementary school you teach at, Melissa, nor do I know what campus you work at, Jennifer – but dang it, I am trying despite such details having no direct impact on my life whatsoever and therefore, to my mind, being absolutely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

But those things are relevant to the people I have decided to care about. So I apply the Golden Rule, and I care. I make myself care. I make myself ask. I try to remember despite those details having little context in the matrix of my thought patterns. (I remember details by way of their association to patterns, so details with little context are verrrrry difficult for me to retain. It drives my wife crazy.)

Here’s the thing: out of the twenty people in my inner circle, the ones for whom I apply the Golden Rule as harshly as I can… I’m sure they care. I just can’t tell.

I hit a low point recently. One person in my inner circle knew about it. Others saw it.

Think about that, if you would.

Out of twenty people, a full one took notice and said “Hey… can I help?”

It made me think: is this normal? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the question, and because I’m me, I told the truth and said, “no,” nor do I resent the people who didn’t recognize it (really and truly, I don’t) — but daaaaaaaaaaaang.

If we, as a people, can’t recognize when the people around us who are supposed to be close to us are struggling… why? Why aren’t we watching?

We see all these school shootings and we wring our hands and say “Don’t forget to connect to the people around you! Prevent stuff like this!” — and I think it’s easy to conclude that connection to others is the key. (Banning guns is stupid; game theory illustrates that it simply makes the problem worse without addressing a first cause. Sorry, gun banners. You’re barking up the wrong stop sign.)

So if we say “Yes, connect to others…” great, but why don’t we do it?

I live in a Christian world. Jesus had two “great commandments” for Christians: to love the Lord, and to do unto others as they would have done to themselves. Looking around, and without trying to criticize, I wonder if we try either one of those… and why.

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