Every year in elementary school, we received a gold ruler that had the Golden Rule stamped on it: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Matthew 7:12 The teacher would always give a brief lesson about why the rulers were important and how breaking the Golden Rule was forbidden. I knew there would be serious consequences if I broke the Golden Rule. I was lucky because I received this message in all walks of my life—school, church, and home. Hearing it frequently didn’t make me perfect, but it did make me aware. I understood that I could break the Golden Rule with my words or my actions.
Proverbs 12:18 says, “reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
It happens in the blink of an eye. Someone allows their foul mood, jealousy, prejudice, or judgmental attitude to take control and they hurt someone. They spout off nasty comments or defy the trust of another individual for personal gain. Just like that, friendships are fractured and trust is compromised. Often, the hurt is easily forgiven and quickly forgotten. The individuals involved realize that no harm was intended. With clear hearts and minds, forgiveness is granted and life goes on.
What about the cases where the hurt is not easily forgiven and quickly forgotten? Typically, humans react in one of two ways. We have been hurt; so we seek revenge—waiting for the ideal opportunity to return the hurt. Words are hurled like poisonous darts and we momentarily feel victorious. Another natural reaction is to clam up and walk away. Removing ourselves from the situation sends the message that we don’t care and that the other person is unworthy of our energy to reconcile. While the last reaction seems somewhat acceptable, it is not necessarily any healthier than the first. After all, is silence truly golden in this instance? Has the golden rule been tarnished not once, but twice?
To be perfectly honest, I have been known to react in both ways at different times. Time after time, I tell myself that the reaction was warranted because the other person didn’t treat me as I wanted to be treated. Either way, I wind up feeling miserable. Hurt riddled with hatred is a nasty combination. In the end, the hurt is still there, and I’ve gained nothing. We may live with the pain for a few days, several months, or even a number of years. Many people have gone to their grave haunted by emotions that stemmed from being treated badly. Breaking the golden rule destroys relationships, corrupts our character, and leads to spiritual darkness.
During these times, we have the privilege of calling on God to help us search our heart and correct our actions. Calling on God is the first positive step in the healing process. With a willing heart and authentic compassion for others, we can live out the Golden Rule and experience joy-filled lives. For as Romans 8:31b says, “God is on our side, who can be against us?”
Karen Pollock, Kentucky