And the way you want people to treat you, that is how you treat them. (Q 6:30)
This, of course, is the famous Golden Rule. We all know about the Golden Rule, and have since we were small. It's part of our culture. Perhaps we've even seen lists showing that the same basic sentiment has been expressed in every religious tradition.
I have to admit that in the past the Golden Rule didn't really show up on my radar. It seemed so familiar, so bland, so ho-hum. If everyone says it, how "cutting edge" can it really be?
But in recent years, it's loomed larger and larger in my mind. Part of that is seeing it surrounded here in the Sermon in Q by saying after saying enjoining us to engage in remarkably selfless behavior. By seeing it in this context, what I've realized is that the Golden Rule is the epitome of selflessness. It's the reversal of the very source of our selfish behavior--our egocentric mindset.
To understand what the Golden Rule asks, I think, we have to understand how we essentially want to be treated. I think we want to be treated as an end in ourselves. In our minds, we are an end in ourselves. We intrinsically matter. Our welfare intrinsically matters. It is inherently important that we feel better, that our suffering is relieved, that we reach our goals. That's how we see ourselves on the inside, and that's how we want to be treated on the outside.
We, however, typically do not extend this status to others. They are in a different category. They don't matter intrinsically, only extrinsically. They only matter insofar as they have an impact on us. Indeed, to be perfectly frank, they are clearly there to serve our needs. This leads to what I always say about the ego in A Course in Miracles, that its basic dictum is "I am end and you are means." This means that I am the only intrinsically important one here. All others matter only insofar as they affect me. They are only serving their purpose if they serve mine.
We all know that mindset. It's that mindset we see in particularly inconsiderate people in our lives, right? Sorry, I meant to say it's the mindset that, to a significant degree, drives us all.
That mindset is, as I also like to say, the mother of all double standards. It is a constant underlying affirmation that what is right for me is not right for you, that it's right that I am treated with great care, but not particularly right that you are. I should be treated as an end in myself, while you should be treated merely as a means.
The Golden Rule is so beautiful, and so universally beloved, because it represents the reversal of that mindset. It is the overturning of all our double standards. You can see that in the saying itself: "The way you want people to treat you, that is how you treat them." No double standards. The Golden Rule essentially says, "You are an end in yourself, just as I am." It says that you intrinsically matter. You matter without reference to me or to anyone. You just matter, in and of yourself, every bit as much as I do. Therefore, the care, respect, regard, and love that I want to receive as an end in myself, you should also receive. For you are an end in yourself.
The Golden Rule is calling us to act out of that mindset, to behave toward others as if they really are ends in themselves, to treat them with the regard and consideration that befits their status as ends in themselves. An end in itself is by definition inherently important. So our behavior should honor that importance. And end in itself is intrinsically valuable. So our behavior should honor that value.
What would happen if we behaved from this mindset? Imagine going around thinking, "My neighbor is an end in herself, every bit as much as I am. That stranger is an end in himself, every bit as much as I am. My spouse is an end in himself, every bit as much as I am. I am not the sun here, with them being mere satellites orbiting around me. They are all suns in their own right. And I will treat them that way."
What would happen to our lives if we did that? To our relationships? To our world? Can you imagine anything as revolutionary as that single idea? The Golden Rule is the key to a whole new world, a world in which everyone has reverence for everyone else. May we go forward committed to using that key in every encounter we have.