The Inner Golden Rule
I want to open today’s lesson with a confession. Shortly before I began writing these words, I felt that some unnamed factor was stymying my progress in life. Something was limiting my ability to envision and pursue higher possibilities for myself and others. I was stuck in a holding pattern.
The key to my problem appeared in the Golden Rule. The precept “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” runs through virtually every religious and ethical teaching, from the Talmud to the Gospels to the Bhagavad Gita. Dubbed the Golden Rule in late 17th-century England, this dictum can today seem overly familiar or cliché. But the Golden Rule holds an inner truth that can make all the difference in your life.
In his 1928 book The Law of Success, Napoleon Hill related the Golden Rule to the phenomenon of autosuggestion, or the suggestions we continually make to ourselves. What we internally repeat and believe takes root in our subconscious and shapes our self-image and perceptions of the surrounding world. This is a profound and determinative fact.
But note carefully—the same autosuggestive process is also triggered by what we think about others. “Your thoughts of others are registered in your subconscious mind through the principle of autosuggestion,” Hill wrote, “thereby building your own character in exact duplicate.” Hence: “You must ‘think of others as you wish them to think of you.’”
Let’s consider Hill’s point of view more fully:
Stated in another way, every act and every thought you release modifies your own character in exact conformity with the nature of the act or thought, and your character is a sort of center of magnetic attraction, which attracts to you the people and conditions that harmonize with it. You cannot indulge in an act toward another person without having first created the nature of that act in your own thought, and you cannot release a thought without planting the sum and substance and nature of it in your own subconscious mind, there to become a part and parcel of your own character.
Grasp this simple principle and you will understand why you cannot afford to hate or envy another person. You will also understand why you cannot afford to strike back, in kind, at those who do you an injustice. Likewise, you will understand the injunction, “Return good for evil.”
When we indulge in fantasies of revenge or score-settling—which I’ve done during morning shaves more times than I can count—we not only shackle ourselves to past wrongs but also to the wrongs that we would do in exchange. Our acts of violence, whether by mind, talk, or hand, reenact themselves in our psyches and perceptions. We are lowered to the level of people we resent or even hate when we counter, mentally or otherwise, their type of behavior. An adjunct to the Golden Rule is “We become what we don’t forgive.”
Conversely, thoughts of generosity and forgiveness add a special solidity to our character, Hill notes, “that gives it life and power.”
Our thoughts about ourselves and about others can be seen as an invisible engine that molds our character and experience. This is why it is extremely important to abstain from spreading or listening to gossip or character assassination.
If you find yourself bumping against limits or having difficulty formulating and acting on your plans, reconsider your relationship to the Golden Rule.
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