Jesus told us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and added that this sums up the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12; see also Luke 6:31. So the Golden Rule is important, and the idea of this post is to offer some thoughts on following it.
It’s important to dwell in your mind and in your talk on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. It’s easy to stew about some person’s faults, but that makes it much harder to love them and treat them well — treat them, that is, as we would want ourselves to be treated.
More creatively, think of ways you might compliment a person for her good rather than criticize her for her bad. And the compliment should be a sincere one. It is by looking for things that we really do like about someone that we can begin to love them, and the Bible takes a dim view of lying. For that matter, I think that often we can suspect when someone is paying us a phony compliment, and we’d prefer to get a genuine one, so the latter better comports with the Golden Rule.
We can also try to think creatively about what people want and need — and that makes it important to listen carefully to them when they talk. Listening to our neighbor when he talks is not only itself required by the Golden Rule — don’t we all like to be listened to when we speak? — but also enables us better to act lovingly since we will know better what our neighbor wants and needs.
When you think about it, conversing well ought to be an important part of leading a Christian life. One senses that, for most of us, most of our contact with most other people is verbal (especially when you consider texting!). Thus, the principal way we can hurt people is verbally, and the principal way we can show kindness is verbal, too. So watch what you say, and think about how you can choose your words to do the most good and the least harm. See James 3.
Another thought here: We don’t all have to be talkative and it’s also okay for some of us to be, but I think it’s not only good manners but also good Christian behavior to avoid the extremes, namely hogging the conversation on the one hand or ignoring those who would like to talk with us or who are talking to us on the other. The talkative in particular should make sure that they don’t interrupt and that they allow others to speak; conversation is supposed to go back and forth.
Yet another conversation tip: Everyone likes to hear and tell a good story, and sometimes there may be some embellishment and editing, but don’t lie. That’s especially true (see next paragraph) if you are thinking about exaggerating in a way that makes you look good or, most especially, someone else look bad.
Finally, everyone likes to put himself in a good light, but there’s more charm in being self-deprecating — and humility is a great Christian virtue. And, most important of all in light of the Golden Rule we are discussing, we should treat others as we would like to be treated in conversations, meaning that we should not put others down and instead should say things that lift them up.
Random related remark: I’ve recently learned the term “EGR” — meaning “Extra Grace Required.” It’s a waggish reference to those people whose personalities demand a lot of patience. And it is warned that, if you don’t know any such person in your circle of friends, then that person might be … you.
What are other ways we can follow the Golden Rule, besides in our speaking? Well, we can pray for people. We can make sure we do not act in ways that harm them, either materially or non-materially. And, conversely, we can act affirmatively to help them, materially or non-materially. We can’t give everyone a thoughtful, let alone expensive, gift (though gift-giving can be appropriate), but we can babysit or provide a lift or cook or offer to let them borrow something or other. Final caveat: What some people like best in some situations is to be left alone!