The Golden Rule

Published: June 12, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” – Confucius, early Chinese teacher-philosopher

One of the best (and most difficult to practice) definitions of the Golden Rule comes from former Hampton Honors College student Courtney Thompson.

It’s a short, but powerful essay on what it means to live what Pastor Rick Warren would call, a “purpose-driven life.” When I asked her what stood out about her essay after re-reading, she confided, “Why didn’t it dawn on me sooner?”

“‘Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.’ These words have echoed in my mind since early childhood. Through the years, I have made serious attempts to follow the Golden Rule, endeavoring to set the pendulum of reciprocity in motion and striving to maintain its constant movement. Continuously, I struggled to extend a mutual kindness to others, usually commensurate with the kindness that I received. I always believed that I understood the full import of these words, until recently.

“In December, I visited Mombassa, Kenya, a country rich in land, culture, and tradition. The roads were filled with vendors, consumers, workers in transit, tourists, the poor, and the homeless. The first days, Hashim, the friend that I traveled to visit, gave willingly to many suffering from severe conditions of destitution and utter helplessness, often exchanging larger bills for easy-to-dispense change. After observing his daily routine of selflessly giving, I reflected upon the ideal symbolized in the counsel ‘do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.’ Before I could censor my thoughts, inwardly I questioned, ‘But what about when others are unable to do unto you?’ The answer came as Hashim’s willingness to give continued over the course of the remaining weeks. ‘You must give to the world more than the world gives to you.’ Indeed, this was the real essence represented by the Golden Rule.

“In that experience, I learned more than I had in a lifetime about the gift of giving. I have since accepted and faithfully practiced the true application of this principle in my life with one modification. Though the change is a single word, the difference is profound. I have resolved that for the rest of my life, not only will I do unto others; I will do unto others, unconditionally.”

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