“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Matthew 7:12
One evening years ago, back when I was a young hotshot business executive – or thought I was – I stopped in a supermarket on my way home from work to pick a couple of small items. Being impatient and self-absorbed as I was, I had failed to notice that the checkout lane I was in was closing. So, when the lady at the register reminded me that her lane was closed, I became angry and spoke rudely to her. But that was not the end of my shameful behavior; for the lady later sought me out, going out of her way to apologize for the inconvenience. What did I do? Rather than accepting her kind gesture I responded with another rude remark as I stormed out of the store.
I don’t think I made it home that evening before my conscience began to kick in, not that I did anything about it like go back and apologize to the lady. But it did make me pause and remember how badly I hated it when someone yelled at me or treated me rudely. How would I feel if I had been in her shoes having to endure the wrath of someone like me, I wondered? That’s been almost forty-five years ago and it still haunts me, especially since I never went back to try to make amends.
The Golden Rule, as we know it, is perhaps the most basic and universal rule of life there is. In his book The Leadership Wisdom of Jesus, Charles Manz says it “is probably the most powerful human relations strategy in the history of the world. Its practice can indeed produce valuable, golden results. The aim of treating people as we would like to be treated is to honor others as inherently valuable beings, as miraculous unique creations, no matter how seemingly imperfect and unworthy they are in their humanity.”
I also find it to be one of the core tenets in coaching leaders who often confess frustration in their ineffectiveness at communicating with others. Most discover that the problem is not in their message, but in how they deliver it. And all it takes is one simple question to raise their awareness. “How do you like to be talked to?” I ask them. Simple question, simple solution, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” As Charles Manz says, practicing it “can indeed produce valuable, golden results.” How often we forget that, just like I did in the supermarket all those years ago. If it is the most basic and universal rule of life there is, I wonder how come it is so hard for us to live by?