From Ally: I am on vacation this week and I have decided to share some of the most recent content from my weekly newsletters. If you are not signed up for the news letter, you can do so by clicking here. Sign-up so you don’t miss future content like this.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We’ve known this rule since grade school. We’ve accepted it to be true. It’s in the Bible (Luke 6:21) but it’s more than that. It’s a rule of basic human dignity, ethics and morality, confirmed by psychology and philosophy and religion.
But do we even know what it looks like to live it out?
It just occurred to me this last week that I’ve been doing it wrong for a long time.
When I was in the seventh grade Katie Lewis got a hair cut that wasn’t very flattering, and our classmates teased her. I watched her, from my seat in our pre-algebra class, shrink down a little. I thought about the time that she had teased me about having dry skin. I remembered how humiliated I felt. But when the comments started flowing about a bowl on her head and a chop-shop, I didn’t say anything. I kept my mouth shut. I had made my share of unflattering beauty decisions in my time, and I knew what it felt like when people rubbed it in your face. It was really nice of me, I thought. I was doing the right thing.
A few years later I learned the depth of betrayal when I had boyfriend cheat on me for the first time. I remember the flashes of hot humiliation rushing up into my cheeks when I got the news, and had the realization that everyone else already knew. That was the worst feeling I had ever felt, and I vowed I would never do that to anyone. No matter what it took — even if it meant pain or discomfort — I would never act in a way that made someone else feel what I felt in that moment.
In college, I had a disagreement with a roommate, my first big fall-out with a friend. Her words may have been honest, but they were harsh and they stung like a thousand little wasps set free into our argument. After she finished, I sat still. Her words had hurt me so badly, and I didn’t want her to feel what I felt. So, instead of speaking my mind, I kept silent.
I thought I was doing the right thing. And maybe, in a way, I was.
But I also wasn’t doing anything.
The absence of evil is not the same as the presence of good.
There have been so many times that I thought I was doing the right thing by doing nothing, because I didn’t want to hurt the people around me, I didn’t want them to feel the pain I’ve felt. I’ve been so quiet all this time when I could have said something, I’ve just stood there when I could have, maybe even should have, made a movement.
The Golden Rule doesn’t say: “Don’t do unto others as you wouldn’t have them do unto you” (although that’s a nice rule too). It says, “DO unto others…” There’s a reason for that. Doing something is always more powerful than doing nothing. What if, instead of keeping silent, I had said to my classmates, “How would you like it if someone teased you about a haircut? Maybe you should think about that before you tease Katie about hers.” What if, instead of “not cheating” on boyfriends, I was really honest with them about my position to them? What if, instead of doing nothing, I released them, to be with the woman who was meant for them?
What if, instead of staying quiet in a disagreement with a friend, I spoke my mind, but stayed gently and resolutely by her side, affirming my care for her in the midst of my disappointment?
That’s what I would want those people to DO for me — isn’t it?
There’s a difference between doing nothing and doing something.
Sometimes, it’s right to do nothing. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do, or nothing we can say, and sometimes our choices are limited. Sometimes we should keep our mouths shut, or just sit still. But more often than not, doing something is better than doing nothing. The absence of action should always be chosen with great intention.
Our greatest power is in our action. We should steward our actions well.
The real reason i don’t act, most of the time, isn’t to protect other people, but to protect myself. I stay silent to protect my insecurity, and I don’t act because I’m afraid of being the bad guy, or of hurting someone else as badly as others have hurt me. The thing I forget is that my absence of action has as great a potential for damage as DOING something, and not nearly the opportunity for healing.
DOING unto others, as I would have them DO to me is the best way to usher in the kingdom of heaven.
When was the last time you DID something like that?