The Golden Rule the World Over, 7

The Native American tribe known as the Pimas capture The Golden Rule this way: “Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself.” Here we see the rule take a new twist into the area of blame and shame. The classic pointed finger with four pointing back at you. A parallel to Jesus’s command to “take the log out of your own eye so you can see clearly the speck in your neighbor’s.”

But this proverb is even more telling when it comes to the wisdom of The Golden Rule. The verse is attributed to the native Arizona tribe referred to as Pima. This moniker is believed to have come from the phrase pi ‘añi mac or pi mac, meaning “I don’t know” — the answer they often gave the Spanish missionaries upon their first meetings. “I don’t know,” the natives answered, and their honesty became a label, a slur, a category to place them under so that they would be considered less than. We all do it— in ways large and small—to individuals, groups, types. The other. We all know we shouldn’t, but we do it anyway. According to Pima wisdom this means, at the very least, we should feel guilty about it.

Do we? And are we willing to begin to catch ourselves and turn our pointed fingers around? And is that even the full of the wrong we do to ourselves when we wrong a neighbor? I suspect it’s more than that. I suspect what they are trying to teach us all is that hateful behavior shapes us. It turns us into hateful people, which makes our lives smaller and tighter until, ultimately, we are simply roiling with darkness and fear and anger, convinced that we had no part in it. Convinced that we are right.

The next time you notice yourself deriding a neighbor, a co-worker, a guy you see on TV, stop. Observe. Consider who you are really hurting. Consider what it would cost to not be so sure your thoughts, words, actions are right, and what you might gain by saying, simply, “I don’t know.”

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