Do you practice the “Golden Rule?” Almost every society has some version of treating others like we want to be treated.
Unfortunately, like all great advice and most sacred texts, this gets twisted by the selfish, the greedy, and those who live in constant fear. We often think of people who are fearful as someone who cowers in a corner, or very shy. We are seeing the exact opposite of that stereotype in the world today.
The playground bully, the homophobe, the bigot, and the terrorist are not powerful, nor do they feel empowered. They live in fear. The react and shout their prejudice from the rooftops of social media and with weapons of destruction because they afraid of being seen as the pathetic, sad, fearful, and ignorant women, children, and men they are.
Abigail Van Buren, the woman who gave advice in newspapers for decades in her “Dear Abby” column, had this to say:
The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.
I remember being bullied by this one guy in middle school. I thought he was gorgeous; he turned everyone’s head, not just mine. Well-built for an eighth grader. Trust me on this – we had gym class the same time.
My affections were not returned. I was his personal punching bag. Looking back, considering the way he tortured me in front of others, I believe he might very well have been bullying me because he suspected I was gay … and may have been dealing with those same feelings himself.
One day, another jock-type dude started roughing me up in the hall. Mr. Well-Built came at him like a Sherman tank, knocking the kid on his butt so hard he slid across the floor into the cinderblock wall.
“He’s MINE!” he screamed. “Leave … him … alone!” That was followed by him putting his arm around me, pulling me around the corner, and asking if I was okay. When I found my voice, no easy feat at that moment after seeing my nemesis transform into my knight in shining armor, I assured him I was unharmed and fine.
He smiled, told me to get out of there, followed by an uncharacteristically gentle shove in the opposite direction. When I looked back he was still watching me, with almost affectionate look on his handsome face.
Of course, he continued to harass me in gym class and whenever we met in the hallways, but the attacks were less frequent and not as bad.
It’s so easy to lash out at our neighbors, co-workers, and even our family members when they mirror some of the horrible behaviors we see in the news. But Abby’s words above are telling about the character of anyone – friend, foe, or political figures. Remembering the foundation from which atrocities are committed doesn’t excuse the actions, nor the perpetrator.
What it does do, however, is give us a method of knowing the true nature of such people. We can react to such childish behavior the same way we do to a three-year-old having a tantrum. Granted, bigoted, prejudiced, and angry adults who may be pointing a gun at us or have access to missile launch codes must be handled differently than a child, of course, but we do so from very different foundation than these cowards.
We live from a foundation of truth; a basis of empowerment; and the knowledge that our words, actions, and votes have power. Never doubt the affect your actions have on the rest of the planet, and especially those around you.