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The First and Only Rule of Being Good

The First and Only Rule of Being Good

Being a good person is simple.

Like most things, people tend to overcomplicate it.

They scour the internet or ask the smartest people they know (i.e. parents), hoping for the missing piece to the puzzle.

But like I said, it’s pretty simple – all you have to do is pay attention to religion.

I’ll admit, coming from someone who isn’t religious, this might seem like shaky advice.

Now, I’m not saying you have to join a religion – I’m simply suggesting that you take a look around.

If you do, you’ll notice that, no matter how many differences there are, there seems to be one common thread connecting most religions.

The Golden Rule.

OK, not every religion uses this flashy branding, but the general idea is still the same:

Christianity: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this

sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Judaism: “Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Confucianism: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” (Analects 15:23)

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” (Mahabharata 5:1517)

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Udanavarga 5:18)

Whether you’re religious or not, I would say that each of these passages describes one simple word:

Empathy.

That’s right. At the end of the day, being a good person means being an empathetic person.

Notice that being empathetic doesn’t necessarily mean being agreeable. It’s 100% possible to understand someone and treat them with respect while still disagreeing with them.

If you ask me, this is the biggest issue in today’s world. You know, besides poverty, famine, and reality TV.

Don’t believe me?

All you have to do is scroll through your Facebook feed and you’ll inevitably find an argument that stemmed from a lack of empathy.

It all starts with one person sharing one post. After that, all it takes is one angry comment.

Unless this first person is a troll (which is very possible on the internet), they’re sharing something they fundamentally believe in.

The second person disagrees and, instead of asking why they feel that way, they default to anger.

It’s easy to be angry. It’s easy to not to give a damn.

You know what’s hard?

Being a good person.

Hey, just because something is simple doesn’t always make it easy.

In fact, it can take all of the self-control you have not to lash out at someone, especially when you think that person is being cruel or unfair.

The thing is, following the Golden Rule (or whatever you personally call it) is easy when it applies to your friends or family. It doesn’t take much effort to treat others with love and respect when they love and respect you back.

It’s infinitely harder to be a good person when we’re talking about someone who isn’t fair. When they aren’t willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

When talking through disagreements, being a good person can set you apart from everyone else, for better or for worse (personally, I’d like to think it’s for the better).

In these moments, a few seconds of empathetic thinking can mean the difference between productive conversation and pointless name-calling.

What exactly does empathetic thinking look like?

Deploying the patience it takes to use logic and reasoning. Shifting your perspective from yours to theirs. Treating others with kindness without expecting anything in return.

These things don’t come second nature to most.

They take practice.

Being good takes practice.

If you disagree, try giving it a shot. Believe me, there are plenty of chances online to practice by talking with someone who thinks differently.

This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on Being Good from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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William is a freelance designer, writer, and founder of Collide, a company that is creating a better, deeper way to connect with others over shared ideas and skills. He is passionate about turning ideas into action and helping others do the same. When not working, William leads a double life as a beatboxer in One Too Many, St. Louis' premiere all-male a cappella group.

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