For the past ten years, every spring, I have taught Business Ethics at Simpson University. A few years ago, I began requiring the class to read a little book called Ethics 101 by John Maxwell.
The concepts contained in his book are simple. It is quite an easy read. I wanted the students to read this book because it was so understandable and his method for determining whether you are acting ethically is simply stated. He suggests one simple rule – the Golden Rule.
Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.
There is good biblical support for this rule of conduct:
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.
Luke 6:31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Galatians 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is a rule that most of us have heard from childhood. It is easily said, remembered and spoken. The application is much more difficult.
I think all of us are probably guilty of not following the Golden Rule at some point. We are imperfect people, with imperfect responses and motives. But, I’m going to ask you to consider something today. Without defensiveness and justification, consider your actions for the past week, in the most rational, realistic way. Have you treated others as you would have liked to have been treated? Think about the things you’ve said, the comments you’ve made behind someone’s back, or even to their face. Were you rude to someone? Did you lie? Did you cause hurt to someone?
Now I ask you to consider, if you had been the receiver of some of your actions, not the architect, how would you feel? How would you have responded if someone had treated you the way you treated them? How would you have liked it? What if someone said to you, or about you, the same things you said? How would you have liked it if someone had acted in the workplace toward you the same way you acted toward them? What if someone responded to you the way you responded to them?
This week someone said something about me that was a.) not true and b.) intentionally hurtful. The comment was unnecessary and intended to hurt. Imagine if the Golden Rule had been followed? Would this person have wanted this said about them? Would this person have wanted an untruth spread about them? Then why say it about me?
Did it make this person feel better after saying this untruth about me? I venture to guess not. It simply fed into the part of their spirit that perpetuates anger, unpleasantness, dissention, and negative feelings. It did not edify them, it did not edify me, and it certainly didn’t edify God.
How much more noble it would have been for this person to have shut their mouth. They would have had more respect for themselves, I would have had more respect for them, and God would have been glorified.
There just may be something to this Golden Rule.
Imagine a world where we consider other people in the way we would like to be treated. Would we say that hateful thing? Would we be mean to that person? Would we renege on our commitment? Would we yell? Would we perform our work at that level? Would we intentionally hurt that person? Would we spread that gossip?
Perhaps the most convicting and challenging statement of John Maxwell comes late in the book when he suggests not just living by the Golden Rule, but by the Platinum Rule. Treat others better than you would treat yourself.
Now that would be revolutionary. Imagine that kind of world.
So, why don’t we all try the challenge that I asked my class to do. This next week, conduct yourself, very consciously, through the filter of the Golden Rule. (Better yet, the Platinum Rule.) See what a difference it makes to your own heart, the people around you and your relationship with them, and most importantly, your relationship with your Heavenly Father.
I’m going to make a conscious effort to live by the Golden Rule this next week. Maybe I’ll even try to live by the Platinum Rule. What a challenge. I’m up for it. Hope you’ll join me. And, let’s turn one week into a lifetime approach. Who’s with me?