On Treating Others Kindly

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On days like today, this quote comes as a timely reminder.

It’s not always easy to treat others as we want to be treated. On the contrary, I think that human nature quite regularly leaves us feeling vengeful and angry. We retaliate against those who have hurt us, continuing a cycle of hurt, with each person feeling like the injured party, and the cycle doesn’t stop until one person has the insight to see what is happening and pull away.

When I was being hurt or mistreated, I used to find myself reacting in one of two ways. I usually either retaliated, and tried to get revenge on the person who hurt me- leaving myself feeling angry and upset, and perhaps liable to do something I’d later regret- or else I’d sit there silently and take it, allowing people to walk all over me, without acknowledging their abuse or asking them to mend my ways.

After I started working on this mitzvah, I found that it was harder than I thought to treat others the way I wanted to be treated. I didn’t want people to allow me to hurt them, and nor did I want to be hurt, but finding a way to react to conflict which didn’t endorse either response was difficult.

Nowadays, when I am hurting, I evaluate my relationship with someone. I ask myself if they are a part of my life; if they make me feel good; if I truly like them; and if they elevate me spiritually. If they do, I try to use dialogue to work through these issues. I explain that I’m hurt, rather than seething silently, and if necessary, I ask for someone else’s advice. If they don’t do any of those things, though, and they simply make me feel nervous or unhappy, I try to disengage.

Pulling away from a negative influence is terribly difficult. They might be a relative, or someone I love despite their bad behaviour; or maybe I’m just used to associating with them. But I try to remember this quote and I know that as long as I let myself be drained and hurt by bad people, I won’t be able to be “good in the eyes of my fellow man”.

The journey to contentment is a long one, and I’m by no means there yet. But whenever I visualise this quote, and act on it, I find myself a step closer to my goal.

5 thoughts on “On Treating Others Kindly

  1. Treating your fellow the way you, yourself, want to be treated is not a Jewish concept for a simple reason that we are all different, and the way you want to be treated, i.e. what is “pleasing” to you, to quote Pirkei Avos, is not the same that will be “pleasing” to me, or to another person, etc. Pirkei Avos does not implore us to treat, but rather to “love your brother as you love yourself.” Based on that love, one will surely find empathy to treat others the way they desire to be treated. The trick, of course, is to love yourself first, without becoming egocentric. For that purpose, Pikei Avos also directs us to perceive every Jew as a Tzaddik. It certainly doesn’t mean that he is, in fact, a righteous person, but we are commanded to approach him as such, until he does something to disappoint us. If that happens, you are doing an absolutely correct thing by simply pulling away. We still do not have the right to label any Jew as a “bad person,” but we are not obligated to deal with them or even to listen to negativity issued from them.
    I am so glad that you guided by Pirkei Avos!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Most certainly! However, If I love chocolate, it doesn’t mean that I have to force-feed it to everyone in sight. What if someone is allergic to it? The Midah of empathy means trying to understand others and subsequently treat them the way THEY want to be treated, without doing to them what’s hateful to you. It’s a fundamental philosophical difference between viewing people as distinct individuals and perceiving them as identical sheep, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht.

        Liked by 1 person

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