Uh oh. What have I gotten myself into? How does a soul be good? The best I can think of right now is to start simple. Let’s start with The Golden Rule: I shall treat others as I want to be treated. Why do I get the uneasy feeling that this is going to be REALLY hard? Oh, maybe, it’s because I’m prone to loosing my temper, judging others, and then there’s that all-time favorite of mine called arrogance.
So, here we are at Day 1 where I shall attempt to treat everyone I meet as I would want to be treated. So far so good! Of course, it’s early, and I haven’t actually seen anyone yet today.
It occurs to me that I might be able to pull off the Golden Rule today if I don’t actually have to interact with anybody!
Being more serious: Being under stress always makes it harder for me to be nice to other people, and that’s compounded when those people aren’t making any effort to treat me well. If I’m feeling calm and centered to begin with, it’s much easier to be decent even to jerks. It seems to me that being good probably starts with doing what we can to reduce our stressed feelings. We probably can’t get rid of the stress — there will always be work deadlines, family emergencies, health problems, not to mention heat waves, traffic and the U.S. Congress — but using meditative practices and carving out some down time will help, as will recognizing those times when the stress in our lives is more than any reasonable person can handle easily. (I think I should be able to handle everything that comes at me, and am perpetually shocked when I hit a wall and realize I can’t.)
In other words, in order to take care of others or to even to be minimally good, we have to first take care of ourselves. I think you’re onto something, Nancy.
Last week, knee-deep in the after-shock of moving into a new house and all the stress and stressors that come with that, Lisa and I realized that we were “picking” at each other and almost routinely disagreeing in sarcastic and short-tempered ways.
Finally we recognized that we don’t HAVE to do that, so we agreed that when one person made a suggestion or comment (about where to put this thing, what to buy for the house, what to sell, donate, trash, etc.) the other person’s first response must be something nice, and with meaning. Instead of replying in this vein, “No, I’ve never wanted to buy that!” or “What are you THINKing?!” we forced ourselves to reply along these lines “Okay. I had not thought of that before.” or “Yes, I see why you would like that.” And then, of course, we were free to agree to disagree about the topic.
What we found was that by simply taking a moment to craft a NICE response (or, sputtering, taking several moments to tamp down the feelings-response and figure out what the heck was an appropriate response!) allowed us to discuss the situation rather than argue or nitpick. It lowered the defensive postures we each took when the other was so negative.
My point is that treating someone as you would like to be treated can also be a matter of re-training behavior to be thought-full rather than reactionary and emotion-full. And what can follow is a greater feeling of attachment and respect.
Agreed, Susan. Well said. And kudos you and Lisa to deal with the stresses of moving so well.
I’ve had many hard lessons on over-implementing or mis-implementing the “Golden Rule”. Because we DON’T all want the same thing, treating others the way we want to be treated doesn’t necessarily correspond to treating them how they want to be treated. In some cases, it’s just the opposite.
The Golden Rule IS a good starting point, though. We just need to keep in mind cultural differences, personality differences, etc. and make adjustments.
A good example is, I like to have someone around when I’m sick, but not in my face. Just somewhere else in the house in case I need something, and to come check in now and then. Others want total isolation, or want someone right there paying attention to them the whole time.
It’s also important to balance what I need with what others want, and find ways of meeting both sets of needs.
Many blessings in your endeavors!
Good point, Natalya. I wonder if we should modify the Golden Rule a tad. Maybe it’s not so much do unto others as you’d like to have done to us, as give others the same kindness and willingness to listen that you want, or well, something like that.