When I was starting my journey into the love lifestyle (and intentional living), I thought I understood what the Golden Rule is, as well as all that comes with it.
As I’ve continued on this path, I’ve had my mindset COMPLETELY changed, as well as my understanding of things as “simple” as the Golden Rule.
What the Golden Rule Is
Whenever we talk compassion (also called “lovingkindness”), there’s a question of where it starts. What inspires a person to actively love? To express empathy for someone else’s experience?
The single most important thing any person can do is engage in self-love. We’re not talking about narcissism – the level we’re discussing is not a selfish thing. Rather, I mean accepting the self – truly loving the self as one loves others (and vice versa). This is the fastest and surest path to empathy and compassion.The single most important thing any person can do is engage in self-love. Click To Tweet
It is a lesson in all sacred texts – the Golden Rule. It’s something many humanists use as a standard because it makes sense:
- Do unto others as you would have done to you.
- Love others as yourself.
- Do not treat others as you do not wish to be treated.
It comes in many different iterations, but the intent and message is the same. And it seems really simple.
But the Golden Rule is so old, so often repeated, the true meaning has been lost. It seems obvious, and while I understood it logically, I didn’t really know it.
The part that really didn’t make sense to me, and is crucial to self-love, was a specific Christian version about forgiveness:
Forgive as you would be forgiven.
When you forgive yourself…
It took me 33 years to figure out forgiveness, and I grew up surrounded by theologically trained people and spent years of my life studying religion and peace.
Forgiveness, it turns out, is tricky.
You see, it is impossible to truly love yourself if you cannot forgive yourself. If you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot forgive others for the same issues. If there is a moment in your past where you lied to someone, and you hate that moment – you will never completely forgive another person for lying.
If there is a moment where you didn’t stand up for yourself, when you gave into peer pressure, or where you let someone plow past you for whatever reason, and you hold this against yourself – you will never completely forgive someone else for the same thing.
And what about judgment? This is a common illness of society. If you judged someone, if you took one look at a person – at their actions and made a sweeping judgment and it twists you up inside, you will never completely forgive someone else for judging another.Forgiveness, it turns out, is tricky. Click To Tweet
What the Golden Rule Means for Thoughts
I didn’t understand the connection between the Golden Rule and forgiveness until I started re-examining my thoughts. I was doing a lot of self-work to clean up my heart and mind, and I found myself stumbling into different thought patterns.
I was dragging around things that happened as a child – moments that were long gone, and yet I carried their baggage everywhere I went.
I had a lot of things I was beating myself up about. Every moment in my past that made my stomach twist was holding me back from experiencing the full depth of what was possible – from experiencing joy in the present, as well as loving others. I needed to forgive myself.
What I Did
I didn’t want to feel this way any more – holding onto this baggage kept me from moving forward in my journey. In order to change, I systematically thought about every single time that bothered me in my past.
I thought about the little girl who took my money at the amusement park, the boys who bullied me, and the boys at high school who said careless cruel things. Then I thought about the time I made someone kiss my feet because they hurt me. I thought about the time I said careless cruel things to someone because I was threatened. Then I thought about all the times I terrorized my brother as a child. I thought about the times I let people make me feel bad for being me. I thought about every moment of guilt, regret, anger, and shame.
In each moment, I felt the feelings I had about situation – hearing the small voice picking at me:
I should have stood up for myself!
I should have gone a different way!
I should have told an adult!
I should have known!
Then I forgave myself:
I forgive myself – I was doing the best I could with the information I had at the time.
I forgive myself – I was just a little girl and I was scared.
I forgive myself – I was hurting.
I forgive myself – I was living the only way I knew how.
I took a deep breath, and let it go.
What the Golden Rule Can Do For You
The Golden Rule can completely transform your life – if you allow it. This is especially true when talking about self-forgiveness. Because everything involved in living your best life hinges on self-forgiveness.
If you’re most people, right now you’re chuckling, thinking Welp, I’m out! That’s because most people believe this:
“This is one of the hardest things for people to do – to forgive themselves.”
I hear this over and over again whenever the idea comes up. But here’s the thing: if a person wants to experience joy, peace, and fully live life, forgiveness is the only way. If a person wants to love actively and express empathy, this is the surest path.
It will be as hard as you make it… or as easy.
If you want to love yourself, let go of your past, you need to practice this version of the Golden Rule. You need to practice self-forgiveness.
Spend a little time this week, maybe once a day, and think of a moment that twists your gut – that triggers that nagging voice. Let that feeling build up, and then really genuinely forgive yourself. If you need to say the words out loud, do it. If thinking them is good for you, do that. Forgive yourself as many times as you need to let go of that burden.
And if it feels strange, or you struggle through this, remember: I love you and whatever you’ve done, I forgive you. I believe you were doing the best you could in your journey.
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