Good Life

Clergy column | Michael P. Hottenstein

Most of us are familiar with the Golden Rule given by Christ Jesus in Matthew 7:12: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

Most faith traditions have their own version of the Golden Rule. Some examples are: “What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man” (Judaism); “Do unto all men as you would they should unto you, and reject for others what you would reject for yourself” (Islam); and “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself” (Buddhist).

The Golden Rule that I try to apply in my life is the Sixth Tenet of Christian Science as stated by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science: “And we solemnly promise to watch and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.”

The Golden Rule is universal and applies to all people throughout all times. Following the rule is not just a nice thing to do but is necessary to do since it is based on spiritual law.

I thought that I lived my life according to the Golden Rule. However, a number of years ago I was in a situation where I neglected the Golden Rule. My son was in a serious auto accident while driving my car. The other driver fell asleep at the wheel and was clearly at fault. My son’s passenger, his best friend, was injured with a shattered leg and severe facial cuts and bruises. Several months later, I was served with papers saying my son and I were being sued by the friend and his family for personal injuries. We were told informally that they sued us because the party at fault didn’t have much insurance. My reaction was that they were acting out of greed. My son and I met with a lawyer over the course of a year. Each time we met, he was concerned that a jury would be very sympathetic toward the injured party and make an award well above my insurance limits — possibly one in seven figures.

The situation looked grim and my resentment toward the other party continued to grow. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t sleep at night. One day I decided to call a Christian Science practitioner to pray about the case and my anxiety stemming from it. The first thing he asked was how I would feel if the plaintiffs were Christian Scientists? I said that I would think that they were honest. He responded, “Well!” I got the point and began to change my view of the other party. By the time we hung up, all anxiety was gone.

Three months later when we met with our lawyer, he was even grimmer about the outcome while I remained free of anxiety. On the night before the trial, our lawyer called and said, “You’ll never believe this, but the other party settled for an amount of compensation well below the policy limits.”

I didn’t pray that the other party would change their minds. Rather, I prayed to open my consciousness to God’s thoughts. I am now convinced that when I brought my convictions in line with the Golden Rule, this was a turning point in the case, not only for me but for the plaintiffs. When we spiritually uplift our consciousness, it lifts those around us as well.