The Limitations of the Golden Rule

The Limitations of the Golden Rule… Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12 — “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” This is so basic that it resonates with almost any audience — adults and children alike, the very wealthy and the very poor, regardless of ethnicity or political party — this simple principle is pretty clear to most: Don’t treat someone in a way that you would not like to be treated.

So, Mr. Barnes, how can this be deficient? It is the Lord’s own teaching after all. How do you find limits in this? I’m glad you asked that question.

At Veritas, when we are trying to push beyond rules to get to the heart of things, we often refer to the Golden Rule as a standard for behavior. Most of the time this works well. But with a very few students, I have seen this break down.

Sometimes a student is being flippant, “Oh, that wouldn’t bother me for someone to do that to me.” in an attempt to sidestep the problem. But other times a student truly has a low bar of expectations and honestly does not care how another might treat him.

In either case, the Golden Rule is not enough. The simple principle does not connect, convict and correct. When faced with this, I have had to respond with, “Well, that is not the way we treat people at Veritas.” And then I go into the reasons why we treat people differently and how most people are hurt by the ill treatment that I am trying to correct.

In addition, I will go into the issue of respect — having respect for others as ones knit together in their mother’s womb by a Holy, Creator God. And, just as important, how one should see one’s self similarly. As one’s created by God and (if a believer) as children of God, we are to act different than the world might. Perhaps we have seen in a TV sitcom the rude remark often accompanied by a laugh track. We think such rudeness is funny or cute somehow. But the offending student is better than this behavior.

Our Words Matter. So do other forms of treating one another — cutting in line, taking a pencil to use without asking, laughing when a classmate makes a mistake, competing too roughly during PE or recess, etc. In each instance we can make others feel small or make them feel valued, honored, treasured and cherished. It often seems like an endless struggle with our kids, but it is worth striving for tirelessly. It does kick in. And some of those most often corrected end up with a lesson that is embedded for a lifetime. That’s what happened with my “difficult child.” Now all who know her comment on her grace toward others and ongoing encouragement.

“Do not grow weary of doing good for in due time you will reap; if you do not give up.” (Galatians 7:9) Christopher

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