Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
“Be kind, be kind, be kind, and you will soon be saints,” said the medieval mystic Jan van Ruysbroeck. This bit of wisdom was most certainly inspired by the Golden Rule, which states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As Van Ruysbroeck’s quote exemplifies, following the Golden Rule is a perfect way to draw closer to God. Yet the world throws so many complexities in our way to obscure our vision of this clear path to holiness.
Many cultures and religions have teachings similar to the Golden Rule. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it was an idea expressed in Leviticus 19:18, when God instructed Moses, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Christ later reiterated this idea in His Sermon on the Mount, saying, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
The Christophers’ recent News Note Live the Golden Rule details practical ways to stay on the path to holiness by following Christ’s command to treat others in the way we would like to be treated. In this News Note, a quote from Father John Catoir, former Director of The Christophers, puts things in perspective. He states, “Maybe you can’t be a delegate at international peace talks. But you can be a peacemaker in your own family – and pray and work for peaceful communication between people of different racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds.”
One particular story tells of a woman named Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse, who wrote a piece for Today’s Christian Woman about her struggle to overcome a judgmental attitude towards others. “The other day,” Newenhuyse writes, “a rather shabbily dressed young woman walked by our house while I was working in the yard. I literally thought to myself, ‘Be kind.’ I smiled and said hello, and she gave me a beautiful smile in return. It just lit up her face. It was a small but significant encounter, because it represented a victory over my old negative pattern of judging people by external appearances.”
Processing what she learned from that encounter, Newenhuyse concluded, “When you’re tempted to think or act critically, stop and consciously substitute a positive response. Pay a compliment. It may seem artificial at first, but after a while, it will become a habit, and a God-honoring habit at that.”
What a beautiful way to honor God, by showing kindness to someone who might otherwise be treated as an outcast. This is the courage we are called to, and though it’s a courage that can manifest itself in small gestures and interactions, it’s no small matter at all. It takes courage to befriend those on the margins of society in a culture that can be as judgmental as ours. We risk being branded by the problems of those we associate with, which is why we’re so reticent to cross that imaginary line that’s been drawn between us and them.
But we are called to cross that line to the degree we are able. When we do, we are practicing the Golden Rule in the most challenging way possible. For which of us cannot say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” in regard to another person’s struggles? And if we can picture ourselves in their shoes, we can know how we would want to be treated – with kindness, kindness, and more kindness.
For free copies of the Christopher News Note LIVE THE GOLDEN RULE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: email@example.com