“He alone is a true devotee of God who understands the pains and sufferings of others.” — Gandhi [source]
My last two posts have been about being the change we wish to see in the world. In this post I will write about how to be the change, once you have seen how essential it is (it is the only way the world will ever see the end of violence) and committed to do it.
Adopting the Golden Rule
To get started on this, I must bring in Jesus again. Most people are familiar with his “Golden Rule” which says to “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” As Jesus is wont for doing, this again places each of us in a proactive position of love and kindness, for each of us desires to be treated in that manner. And so that is where we begin. If I am to be the change, I must begin acting towards others only and always as I would have them act towards me, and I must reject all excuses to do otherwise.
Most of us live according to a rule that goes more like, “Do unto others as they have recently done unto you.” When it becomes difficult to love someone, we simply stop trying. But of course love matters most in those times when it is difficult to do. It is easy to love my daughter, but hard to love the boy who might take her down a wrong road. Can I protect my daughter while still treating this boy in loving ways? If I cannot, then I live at the level of mere instinct. Spiritually speaking, I am more like a squirrel than a human being.
That is precisely the reason the world is in the condition it is in. It is populated by creatures who are men and women biologically, but are spiritual squirrels, clawing to take the acorns from one another.
If you can come to see this, the distinctions between you and your enemies begin to blur — you realize that you are all just clawing for what you believe you need, what you are convinced you have a right to, what you believe someone has stolen from you. Caveman Spirituality.
Practicing the Golden Rule
Living by the Golden Rule takes practice — a lifetime of it. In every interaction, you ask, “What would I want said/done to me at this moment?” and you do/say only those things (and only in those ways) that would make you feel loved, accepted, appreciated, honored, etc. If you have to say something difficult, ask yourself, “If someone had to say this to me, how would I want them to say it?” and then you say it in that way. You permanently put away all thoughts of what another person “deserves” (since this leads to retaliatory words and actions, not proactively loving words and actions), and you act only according to how you yourself want to be treated. You grant all the grace you hope others will grant to you. When you are upset at someone, you assume there might be another explanation for what they did, and you check it out graciously. You determine to stop believing negative things about others, since you of course hope others don’t believe bad things about you.
Ties that Bind
This is the first step in being the change. It’s all about ceasing to think of others as entirely separate entities with interests that are constantly competing against our own, and learning to see the ties that connect us to one another. As you seriously set out to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, you will see these ties more and more clearly. Eventually you see that for every hurtful action you take towards others, you have done a great deal more violence to yourself.