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Golden Rule 2.0

  • 27 Feb 2024

In Lak’ech: A Global Peace Hack for Humanity 

Humans have long been seeking a simple formula to relate to each other in a way that results in both internal and external peace.

In ancient times, the formula was Reciprocity: expect to be done to you what you choose to do to another.  “An eye for an eye” seemed like a fair transaction, and some still believe that Reciprocity serves as justice, but that is so short-sighted (pun intended).

Not only does Reciprocity not solve the problem of violence, it often escalates it, leading to anger, rage, and more violence. It can plant the seeds of hateful acts in what should be only holy ground: our hearts.  And when that ground has been fertilized with grievance instead of forgiveness, those seeds can grow wildly into war. 

Our wisest spiritual teachers have taught us over countless years that Reciprocity is counterproductive. They have steered us toward a new approach.  Almost every faith tradition has shifted dramatically away from Reciprocity, to what we now know as the Golden Rule:

Love thy neighbor as thyselfDo unto others as you would have them do unto youTreat another the way you would want to be treated.  

Over 20 faith traditions have a version of the Golden Rule.

But the Golden Rule has become cliche and is often misunderstood.  We parrot it to each other and our children as a command, while often missing the WHY of it.  Most people still see it as transactional, expecting reciprocity: “I’ll be nice to you; and you, in turn, will be nice to me.  Or maybe, you will at least be nice to the next person you meet.” 

But the Golden Rule is NOT karma.  It is NOT transactional.

The Golden Rule is transformational!  If I treat you badly, even subconsciously, that behavior emits a wisp of shame that resides somewhere within me.  By hurting you, I may have brought you down, but I most definitely have lowered my own esteem.  Alternatively, if I choose to help you or be kind to you, I have done what I can to lift you higher and, at my core, I feel good about my behavior and like myself more!  That compassionate behavior is an act of self-love. 

Just imagine if we could help children to understand that when they bully another, they are hurting themselves. Wouldn’t we surely see bullying decrease?

Some of the roughest bullying happens in Middle School (which I refer to as “The Cruelest Season”).  Our kids are unprepared for being hurt by their peers.  So when it happens, they are not always equipped to respond with a healthy action.  The knee-jerk reaction is Reciprocity, and the downward spiral begins.

How do we teach the Golden Rule to this next generation?

We break it down.  We rebrand it.  We repeat it. 

Breaking it Down

The similarities in the many faith versions of the Golden Rule are striking and all connect ourselves to the other.  The best summary of the interpretation of this concept that we have found is the affirmation called In Lak'ech.

It was pulled from a larger poem written by Luis Valdez in the 1970s. He was interpreting a cultural precept from his indigenous Mayan ancestors and it has been tagged a prayer, a poem, a greeting, and even a unifying refrain.  I like to think of it as the 

Golden Rule 2.0:

In Lak’ech

You are my other me.

When I do harm to you,

I do harm to myself.

When I love and respect you,

I love and respect myself.

These few simple sentences are foundational to self-love and respect.  And when we love ourselves not with our ego, but with our hearts, it is easy to love another.

Rebranding It

This is our challenge: to update our beautiful Golden Rule so it can be understood more holistically, as a mandate to behave in ways that make it easy to love ourselves. Love begets love!

The Golden Rule 2.0 is our Global Peace Hack for Humanity.

Repeating It

I learned of In Lak‘ech when it was presented as a call and response in a circle-keeping workshop.  It is an amazing way to set the tone for any sort of gathering or meeting.  We hope you can see the value in this practice and begin to use it regularly in your own lives.  We encourage you to use it consistently to open group sessions, classes, or even Zoom meetings with adults.  Most importantly, we urge you to use it with kids and youth at every Spiritual Playdate, and whenever else you find an opportunity.  This exercise can help us reclaim our connection with our own compassion, empathy, forgiveness — and most importantly, with our Other Selves: our fellow humans.

In Peace, 

Edwina Cowell

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