Do Unto Others . . .

Not long ago, I asked my wife what her philosophy of life was. She said, “Do unto
others as you would have them do unto you.”

I’ve heard and taught that saying dozens of times (at one point in my life I was a professional religion teacher). Jesus taught this in the New Testament. But when my wife said it, it had the sound of a profound truth. Had I been asked the same question, my hope is that I would have said the same thing.

Did you know that this teaching has been around as long as human civilization has existed.

The Egyptians taught it as early as 2000 BC. The Greeks as early as 500 BC. The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1784-1804) thought it was a “categorical imperative” (an idea that can’t be argued against, a near perfect thought). Mohammad taught it, and his fellow prophets of the Old Testament taught it (Leviticus 19:18).

Yesterday, I was in a symposium featuring world renown journalist,Thomas Freedman. His thought was that in an age where the internet has created a world where everyone acts as their own god, the only principle that will save us is “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It did not go unnoticed for those sitting in the front three rows: two past governors, a present one, a bank president, a mayor, a past presidential cabinet member, and three major corporate owners, etc.

For those orthodox Christians who think that Jesus was the first one who taught this golden rule, I can only say It’s not important if he was or was not the first; what matters is that he too taught it. Every person, who has carried the heavy burdens of leadership through out human history, has communicated that there is at least one immutable idea that makes human existence possible; that being, before you commit an act on your fellow human being, do so only after asking, would I want this done unto me?

That’s where our humanity will need to be anchored in the future. In a world that can be blown up and poisoned by one person who lacks  internal compassion, our serious and careful cultivation and education, whether in secular or religious settings, must put this idea above all else – “I will never do to you, but for what I would want to be done to myself”. Categorically and unequivocally, I will always “do unto others as I would want them to do unto me.”