In distress and bewilderment, I would pour out my trouble to Mom after school. What do you do when you can’t play the game according to their rules? What had I done to bring her hatred on me?
And Mom would always come back to the same thought in her response. “Honey, we don’t know why she’s acting that way. It might not be because of something you’ve done. Maybe she’s unhappy inside and is taking it out on you. But the most important thing is not what she’s doing to you, but how you act back. Think about it—how would you want to be treated if you were her? Answer that question and you'll know what to do. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’!"
She was, of course, quoting Jesus’ famous words from Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”(NASB)
It didn’t make sense, being nice to someone who was deliberately hateful to me. But Mom wanted me to understand the simple secret of relationships—show love. Act with courtesy, respect, kindness, honor, patience, generosity, forgiveness. All the same things I want and need from people. And God’s promise is that following His example of giving grace and mercy to others when it’s not deserved will bring us great reward (Luke 6:35).
In my stumbling child way, I began to learn how to forbear and act out the Golden Rule. Things improved with my antagonist by the end of the year, and with each little victory, I began to see that God’s way diffused trouble with people in a way nothing else could. It was a process of learning to say no to my selfish need to be right or first, my desire to win or to taste the sweetness of vindication.
Jesus clearly taught us that the Golden Rule is the essence of love--giving, putting the other person first, being willing to give up our 'rights' to ourselves in a situation for the good of someone else. Isn't that how we'd want to be treated? If the tables were turned right now and we were in their place, what would we need? Patience? Understanding? Kindness? To be forgiven?
Our days are filled with choices to love or not. What if it were me who made a mistake in traffic and needed forbearance? What if it were me in the store needing to hurry through the checkout line? What if it were me who received bad news? What if I had a bad night and was struggling to focus at work? What if I was dealing with a terrible heartache and took it out on you? What if I was a child without the benefit of wisdom and experience and I needed the grace given me to try yet again?
It’s so easy to fall into a me-first-my-way attitude with people, but just as I learned in fourth grade, it really doesn’t achieve anything but more hurt and divisiveness. Mom was right (of course!). The secret to living well with others is to think about how I’d want to be treated—and then do it!