I sat down with my boss to give him feedback on a project. He had a full schedule, and my time with him would be short.
After listening attentively to my summary, he was quiet. Had I left out something important? Then, as though someone tapped me on the shoulder, the thought came: He wants to listen to you.
I talked a little more about the project and then made a few unrelated personal comments. To my surprise, those comments got the conversation into full swing. Before long we were having a leisurely – yet meaningful – conversation about my life and his, the kind one typically has with close friends. The conversation changed my frame of reference. He was now a different man in my eyes, not just my boss but an interested and trustworthy friend.
Although this happened over 25 years ago, it left a lasting impression. It taught me something about individual worth and how we need to value it in ourselves, as well as in others. That executive/friend showed me a degree of respect that, quite honestly and ignorantly, I didn't think I deserved.
So, why recall this now? Because in the wider world, cold or stormy relationships have become business-as-usual among too many nations, politicians, businesses, and families, and valuing respect for one another would be a fitting start for anyone wanting to foster better ties.
Where to begin? Why not with a renewed discovery of that ancient guide, Jesus' Golden Rule: "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matt. 7:12).
The Golden Rule calls for mutual respect – a form of love – even while so much in the world argues against it. When accepted as a rule to live by, the precept to "do unto others as we would have them do" fulfills the deeper obligation we all have to live up to who and what we are.
We're to love one another because of our shared link to one Creator, who is Love itself. And we're naturally drawn to this Love because we are family, a real family. You and I are the image and likeness of divine Love, and this means that our nature is in fact a completely loving one. So often it's our lack of knowledge concerning that fact or our inability to live up to it because that feels difficult (or because we don't even care to try), that causes us to treat one another as strangers or enemies instead of as brothers, sisters, and friends.
But our rootedness in God as His likeness gives a spiritual foundation from which to value and improve our own characters, and at the same time cultivate respect-filled relationships with others.
Endless possibilities can grow out of doing this consistently. "One infinite God, good," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, "unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 340).
Think of the opportunity we all have to make a positive difference in someone's life. We can look for and expect to see the best, not the worst, in ourselves and others. To have more patience and respect, be better listeners, give correction where correction is warranted, and at the same time deliberately resist self-condemnation, disrespect, posturing, self-interest.
As ancient as it is, the Golden Rule hasn't lost its relevance. It's not only informing people how they should treat others, but how they should see themselves. As children of God, we're each entitled to enormous respect. The more we all practice this, the more right it will feel to do so, and the odder it will seem that we haven't been doing so all along. And it's never too late to begin.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.