Practicing the Golden Rule in Everyday Life

Article By Dee DeWitt

… thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself …”

Leviticus 19:18


I have not been very good at living the Golden Rule for a good part of my life.  However, this is one of the areas in my life I have been thinking a lot about lately and one I want to improve upon.  That’s partly why the title reads “Practicing” as opposed to something that may imply having mastered it … it’s always a work in progress.


While putting the Golden Rule to work in our everyday lives will help to make others happy, the simple truth is that it will make me happier as well.  Apply the Golden Rule in all of your interactions with others, help your neighbors, treat your family with kindness, help your co-workers, help a stranger in need. 


These actions will help the people around you … however I believe people will treat you better too.  Just as importantly, you will find a growing satisfaction in yourself, a belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person.  Not that living the Golden Rule requires a benefit or payoff … but these are not small dividends.  They are large dividends. 


With this in mind, try making the Golden Rule a focus of your actions, and try to live by it to the extent that you can.  Living it will make you a better person, will make those around you happier, and will make the community you live in a better place.


Here are some practical ideas for putting the Golden Rule into practice in our everyday lives:


Stop criticism.  We all have a tendency to criticize others, whether it’s people we know or people we see on television.  It seems many times the most at risk are our own family … the ones we are supposed to love the most.  Ask yourself if you would like to be criticized in that person’s situation.  The answer is almost always “no.”  So hold back your criticism, and instead learn to interact with others in a positive way.


Be friendly.  When in doubt, follow this tip.  It’s usually safe to be friendly towards others.  Of course there are times when others just don’t want someone acting friendly towards them, and you should try be sensitive to that.  You should also be friendly within the bounds of appropriateness. But who doesn’t like to feel welcome and wanted?


Be helpful.  This is probably one of the weaknesses of our society, especially as we all get wrapped up in our own lives, worries and pressures.  There are many people who go out of their way to be helpful, but in general there is a tendency to keep to ourselves, and to ignore the problems of others.  Try not to be blind to the needs and troubles of others.  Look to help even before you’re asked.


Don’t change who you are behind the wheel.  There are few times when we are as selfish as when we’re driving.  Maybe as I get older I am slowing down, but I am trying to be more conscious about things when I drive.  We don’t want to give up the right of way, we cut people off, we honk and yell. We don’t act that rude in person, most of the time.  So try to be courteous in traffic.


Listen to others.  Perhaps more than any one weakness, this is mine.  We all want to talk, but very few of us want to listen.   We all want to be listened to.  So take the time to actually listen to another person, rather than just wait your turn to talk.  Listen and don’t practice what you are going to say while they are speaking.  I think as I practice this more, I will also learn much more as a result.


Remember what it was like being a child.  The urge to criticize is especially strong when we are adults dealing with children.  In some cases it’s necessary … You don’t want the child to hurt himself, for example.  But put yourself in the shoes of that child.  I remember how horrible it felt to be criticized, and consequently not feeling as if you are good enough, or loved enough, or wanted.  Chances are we all have these memories to some extent … and you probably didn’t like it either. So let’s remember and treat children as if we were that child.


Practice empathy.  Building on remembering our childhood, try to make it a habit to try to place yourself in the shoes of another person.  Loved ones, co-workers, people you meet on the street.  Try to understand, to the extent possible, what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.


Practice compassion.  Once you can understand another person, and feel what they’re going through, learn to want to end their suffering.  When you can, take even a small action to somehow ease their suffering in some way.


As we each start putting these ideas for putting the Golden Rule into practice, try to notice how it makes you feel.  Notice how your actions affect others, especially when you start to treat them with kindness and compassion.  But also notice the change in yourself.  Do you feel better about yourself? Happier? More secure?  


I know from personal experience that these changes come slowly and in small increments, but if you pay attention, you’ll see them … or more importantly … feel them.


“Empty pockets never held anyone back.  Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.”

-Norman Vincent Peale


“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man.”
-Saint Francis of Assisi


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Posted on 30 April, 2009 in Gratitude, Happiness, Helping Others, Making the Day Count, Spirituality
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