This quote is attributed to Hillel the Elder, a Jewish sage, who lived in Babylon in the Parthian Empire. He is explaining to us the first inner state we must attain in order to be able to actualize what today we call the Golden Rule—to love one another. When we internalize this idea and operate out of it in our lives—avoiding any action that harms another—we move seamlessly into the second stage of loving one another unconditionally.
What Does It Mean to Harm Others?
The most reliable measure of the health of a society is the state of the relationships among its members—how we treat each other. A mainstay of the political and social scene is gossip, expressed on all levels, from jokes to fabrications, from light-hearted to deadly.
We judge a person, then tell others about it. A seemingly harmless video montage of people falling or tripping makes us laugh, and yet there is a subtle judgment going on inside us, and undoubtedly, some are physically hurt.
Juicy tidbits about others are shared over lunch, then spread like wildfire through a workplace, and ultimately deeply affect good relations among workers. Our views of a colleague’s skills erode into doubt and suspicion based on what we have heard about his personality or private life.
The political environment has deteriorated to one in which every small thing about a person—even hairstyle, diction, mannerisms—are highlighted and pilloried as character flaws. Political campaigning is a battleground based on distortions, lies and innuendo about individual personalities, “digging up dirt” on people and negative ads with demeaning images.
For many the harm is irreparable, as they are banished from the political or social scene. Their views, ideas and skills, hopes for the good of the organization, and good intentions are discounted or ignored. We harm and kill the inner beings of others without a second thought, simply by the way we gossip about them.
Societies as a whole are so entrenched in harming others for personal gain that almost everything we do harms someone. How do I know which products I choose are the result of slave labor, or manufactured in countries that ignore human rights, or are marketed by corporations that exploit the public with inferior design?
Is There a Remedy?
Am I saying that we immediately change our lifestyles, our likes and dislikes, our political or social opinions? No. Am I saying that gossip is the root of the world’s problems? No. But examining this level of our relationships with each other gives a picture of the basic problem—our increasing separation from each other. The fact is that we now live in a world that regularly harms. The only remedy is inside each and every one of us.
We are totally dependent on each other, locally and globally, for our very survival. So it is in our best interest to care for each other, and this begins with deep contemplation about and recognition of the force of ego within us. Then learning to overcome it.
- Walk in the shoes of another. Feel the effects of our slander, know how much it hurts, see what we are stealing and killing.
- Understand that every person wants and deserves happiness.
- Find ways to contribute to the good of others—friendship, charity, loving kindness.
- Refuse to listen to gossip.
- Set an example by behaving toward others the way we want them to behave toward us.
- Think before speaking, verbally or on social media.
- Stand up for goodness and kindness and for those who do the right thing.
- GO AND STUDY how I, you, each of us is deeply connected to everything in the universe and to what degree our thoughts and actions add to the positive or the negative of the collective consciousness.
These things describe the practice needed for attaining the highest principle of them all, the thing that will correct our broken societies, loving others as ourselves.