There are many golden rules in the Wikipedia article by that name. A common interpretation of The Golden Rule is “Be nice to others and they will be nice to you.” and the inverse, “Don’t be mean to others and they won’t be be mean to you.” which is usually called the Silver rule. But in my analysis of these last few days, based on the idea of kindness, it becomes clear that kindness goes beyond those common views of ethical behavior.
Underlying each of those views of the Golden Rule is the hope for a return of a favor for the favor you are giving to the other person. Thus, an act motivated in that way becomes an economic transaction with the intent of a repayment and thus it is a mild form of selfishness. This view is similar to the law of Karma which states that the actions you perform will be returned to you, so you better perform good actions. There is a quality of threat in this view of karma which is sometimes stated bluntly in the various forms of reincarnation recompense. For example, if you intentionally step on a cockroach you will come back to life in your next reincarnation as a cockroach.
Observe carefully Jesus’ statement of the Golden Rule. It is much more challenging, both to understand and to apply.
12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12
The word should is no mistake because this same word also appears at a different time and in a different context.
31And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31
The critical word should is used by Jesus but these days the internal meaning is always passed over. I say always because I have never once heard it said or commented upon as an internal response, and it doesn’t exist in the Wikipedia commentary in this form as I write this. It is strange that the function of this particular word should is ignored because it is the absolute Heart of Christianity as Jesus taught it. Furthermore, the prophet of Christianity emphasized the word not just once but twice in this his only presently know complete sermon. He immediately said, “This is the Law, and the Prophets.” How much greater an emphasis has anyone ever put upon a single sentence and a single word, and emphasized it with greater force?
What is the purpose of this word should? In Jesus’ own words:
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” KJV John 10:10
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. KJV Mat 22:36-40
This word should is aimed at helping other people and that is the goal and essence of kindness and kind acts. Those types of actions are a way of one-way giving what the other person needs to live and to live their life more abundantly. They are not intended as soliciting reciprocal acts from the other person with the goal of enhancing one’s own life and making one’s own self more abundant.
Intentionally cultivating the habit of kindness to others will rebound upon one’s self, because the person we relate to most often is our own self and we are the most frequent recipient of our own habit of kindness. This return of kindness isn’t selfish it is generosity to ones own self and it will lead to a more contented life. However, sometimes, hopefully rarely, it will require the giving of one’s own life – as Jesus proved by voluntarily giving his life so his followers could understand the power of his message. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate in kindness to others and he attained what he said was the ultimate reward.
It is unfortunate that the Roman state co-opted what became a religion founded on these very positive ideas and converted it into a state religion used to control people rather than liberate them. And yet, the message was always there to be practiced by anyone who chose to do so:
Practice kindness by doing for others what they should do for you if you were them.