The Golden Rule….Love Your Neighbor as You Love Yourself.
What if one doesn’t love him or herself? What if they feel hate, frustration, or disappointment?
I imagine that this is very much the case for many of our brothers and sisters. If we are honest, I imagine this is true for ourselves at times too.
Psychology has taught us that when we act in hurtful ways, it is often because we are hurting inside.
We all know people that act in ways that may leave us feeling hurt, frustrated, or sad. If we can take a step back, while not excusing this behavior, we can understand, and maybe even empathize. This is often easier to process from the distance, or when it doesn’t directly involve us.
Back to the Golden Rule. What if someone does not love him or herself? How can they possible give love? It is an unrealistic rule. Hasn’t life demonstrated this enough times?
Key to the spiritual life is to recognize God’s unconditional love for us. This takes a lifetime to process and to understand, and possibly even death to fully appreciate. If we can operate out of this place of love, knowing we are God’s beloved, as Henri Nouwen describes it, we can then see past the daily, and inconsistent, behaviors of those we share the journey with each day.
This is why I prefer the version of the Golden Rule that reads, Love your neighbor as God loves you.
Sure, we may not always feel that love, but I believe it is easier for our species to understand God’s love than to love ourselves. If we begin with God’s love, then we can not only love out neighbor, but we can also love ourselves.
So next time you recite the Golden Rule, and feel the temptation to past judgement on the behavior of another, remember that the love we expect to see may not be possible just yet. Perhaps it is an invitation to love them back, reminding them not only of your love for them, but the love of God as well.
If we can replace the negative energy sent to us as love, then hearts can be converted, lives transformed, and then the Golden Rule can be a realistic expectation.