By: Shannon Shull
One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.
Psychologically the Golden Rule involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically it involves a person perceiving their neighbor as also “an I” or “self.” Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and between individuals and groups. (For example, a person living by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group.) A version of the Golden Rule can be found in every single religion! And why not, right? It makes perfect, logical sense. Why would anyone, in their right mind, want to be treated badly?
I have always tried to live by this rule. In fact, it’s a motto of mine. As a mother, I constantly find myself preaching this to my children. And as I teach, especially the younger ones, I use it as a studio rule to teach respect and try to impose an open mind and thoughtfulness – so these kids hopefully have a conscience and don’t cause trouble in my classes!
Recently, as I was teaching at an after school program doing theater games and charades, I noticed a boy sobbing. Now, let me preface the scene here a bit …to say that this particular after school group of 4th graders are a handful is honestly an understatement. These kids, especially at 4 p.m. in the afternoon, are mostly, well, totally out of control. They can not sit still, much less keep their mouths shut, to save their lives. Fortunately, they’re still precious children and all have been engaged and seem to thoroughly enjoy the arts integration activities I’ve been doing with them, but they are not the best behaved bunch! So, I see this special boy sobbing and it breaks my heart. I stop everything and ask the group why he is crying. I’m met with replies of talk about some of them picking on him and then I remember noting giggling and such earlier. I put the pieces together and well, let’s just say Teacher-Mama Shannon went into preacher mode! I do not do well with seeing someone get their feelings hurt and in this case, it tore at my heart. The charade games were put on hold and the group was given a heart to heart speech about respect and treating others as you’d want to be treated. I gave them examples and all, just hoping, praying that something would sink in for these kids and they would be more aware of how they treat others.
Ironically, I had just had a talk with my children that same day when I picked them up from school. At 6 and 8 years old, we’re having a lot of lessons in good manners and how to be polite. I just had to explain to them that just because you may be feeling crummy, upset, or angry, does not mean that you have permission to treat others poorly. I had told them about a particular day when I felt completely awful, yet when I walked into public and came into passing with others, I made sure to put a smile on my face and treat them with kindness, regardless of how terrible I felt. Present others with a smile and kindness and you will most times get a smile and kindness in return! It’s a lovely exchange I must say! And you never know when your simple act of kindness could make someone’s day and warm their heart. It’s one of the things I live for – to bring a little happiness into others lives.
All that being said, I don’t know if a word of what I said to those 4th graders sunk in, but you better bet I had to at least try. And us adults need to be reminded of the “Golden Rule” too! Now I know there are exceptions – some people just go looking for trouble and for whatever reason only allow themselves to be miserable, it’s in their genes I guess. But I’d like to think that the majority of us human beings prefer to be treated with kindness and respect. I know for certain, if more of us humans actually applied this “Golden Rule” to our daily lives, I guarantee you our world would be a much happier place!
I challenge you all to apply the “Golden Rule” to your everyday lives! Share with me the ways you have experienced the positive effects of treating others as you want to be treated. The more of us humans that lead by example and follow this lovely “Golden Rule,” the more pleasant and good people we will come across! And by all means, let’s please be a good example to these young children so that they will hopefully treat each other well!
So I close my blog entry today with some application directions…
To apply the “Golden Rule” adequately, we need knowledge and imagination. We need to know what effect our actions have on the lives of others. And we need to be able to imagine ourselves, vividly and accurately, in the other person’s place on the receiving end of the action. With knowledge, imagination, and the “Golden Rule,” we can progress far in our moral thinking.