“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Remember that one? You know, pretty big reference in the Bible. Actually, it’s mentioned several times in the Bible, prominently in Matthew and Leviticus — and is the central theme of the standard “Golden Rule” that can be found in the texts of nearly every religion or philosophy recorded through time.
Confucius was credited (c. 500 B.C.) as saying, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”
The ancient Greeks were led by the words of Isocrates (436-338 B.C.): “Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.”
Muslims studying the Hadith (the oral and written accounts of Muhammad) read the passage, “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them.”
No, this is not a column on comparitive religions or a snarky attempt to push the teachings of one faith over another. I am not qualified to be a theological “expert” by any means, and hold my individual spiritual beliefs close to my heart, and to myself.
I’m simply pointing out that great minds and leaders throughout time have recognized that the greatest strength we hold as human beings is our basic ability to act like human beings — to empathize with one another, lend a hand when a hand is needed and to treat one another with respect. Strictly speaking from personal observation, I feel like this ideal is one that gets lost all too often in our day-to-day lives.
Some of it can be attributed to the insanity we attach to our individual lives. We work like dogs. We try to get in as much family time as we can. We attempt to be social via online sources, text messaging or random visits. And we plug ourselves into our televisions — a situation only exasperated by the ease in binge-watching our favorite programs by streaming or “on-demand” options. That not only leaves precious little time sitting outside and talking with the neighbors, it also wraps ourselves into tidy little coccoons, insulated from much of the outside world.
Another factor in the lost art of “love thy neighbor,” in my opinion, is the stark and venomous divisions we have created in political idealogy. I remember being taught as a child that compromise is a great tool. Not that I should ever compromise my strongly-held beliefs, mind you, but that reaching an accord with someone who has different opinions or desires is a mature way of handling a dispute, and a powerful method in which to actually progress toward a common goal.
But we are now so caught up in “red” or “blue” or “black” or “white” or “brown” or “gay” or “straight,” that we can not look past any differences between us, and it’s easier to just stay “to our own kind” than to venture out and hear anyone else’s opinions. Heaven forbid a neighbor has a campaign sign for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or even Gerald Hocker or Perry Mitchell. Those are fighting words for many of us.
And that’s a shame.
We dig in our heels and we give no quarter. Just look at how our national leadership operates when trying to put together a federal budget every year. Nobody works with one another. They all spit rhetoric and hate. And we are left with a deadline budget that contains a whole lot of the same every year. Absolutely nothing changes, and both sides of the political aisle leave the scene of the crime bragging about how they wouldn’t budge on such-and-such issue.
Do you think the boards of Apple or Exxon are filled with people who only have one opinion? No, but they behave responsibly and put together operating budgets that best serve their companies and shareholders. Well, WE, the American people, are shareholders in this country, and it’s time that the people WE put into office stop worrying about their next elections and start...
But I digress.
I really got off message there. See? Now I’m the one putting out messages of divisiveness. It just gets very frustrating to know that there are so many smart and creative people all around us, and we just collectively refuse to, you know, “love thy neighbor.”
But what’s maybe more frustrating is that in times of dire need or extraordinary circumstances, we do love our neighbors. We do step up. We do act like amazing human beings.
Case in point: The Phillips family in Tenino, Wash.
Marvin Phillips decided to pack his wife and five of his children into the family’s motor home for a family vacation last week. While the Phillips family was away, their home and truck were painted with racial slurs.
A neighbor, Heidi Russell, saw the graffiti and put out a call on her Facebook page to get the community over to clean up the mess before the family returned from vacation. “I want the racist cowards to know that we WILL NOT stand for this in our small town,” she wrote.
People came. Strangers came. Members of the rival football teams of one of Phillips’ sons came. Police and firefighters came. All told, about 50 people came to clean up the hate and spread the love.
Phillips said what touched him the most was a photo he saw of the cleanup, via a story on CNN.com. His friend was “holding her 2-year-old daughter and she was holding a paintbrush painting out the n-word.”
That is loving thy neighbor. In its purest form.