And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
Today’s Bible verse is also known as “the Golden Rule,” and is often stated as “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”
We all have things that make us feel uneasy or stressed. Maybe it’s the traffic on the road and the perpetual impatience and aggressiveness of other drivers. Maybe it’s the endless circles of gossip. Maybe it’s the overall lack of transparency and honesty. Maybe it’s someone who flies off the handle at us. We all have things that people do to us or around us that make us feel uneasy. What can we do about it?
One answer is, to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. What does this mean? In simple terms, the things that you dislike that people do to you, make sure that you are not inflicting those same things on other people. If aggressive drivers make you uneasy, don’t be one. If gossip brings you stress, make sure you don’t gossip. If others around you can’t be honest or transparent, don’t be like them. And if people around you lose their temper easily, remain patient and calm.
There are at least two benefits to doing these kinds of things. First, there is some satisfaction in knowing that we are not adding to the problems of the world. And second, our “model” behavior just might rub off on those around us.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had once at summer camp with a group of campers who were all complaining about peer pressure. There were 16 of them and they were ALL complaining about this. I pointed out to them that if EVERYONE agrees that this is a problem (not a small number, half, or even a majority, but EVERYONE) then all of them had the power to stop that in their little group. On several other occasions in my ministry, I’ve been with groups of young adults who are faithful in their practice of Christianity, who bemoan the fact that so few people are like them, and where will they find people to hang out with and where will they find someone to marry. And I always laugh and tell them “Look around the room, the answer is right here.”
If we commit ourselves to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, and we encourage those around us to do the same, we can take away some of that uneasy feeling, perhaps in the world, and certainly in our peer group.
One additional comment, which concerns our peer groups and our families. We know that stress and uneasiness are part of life. We know that out in the world we are going to feel a lot of stress and uneasiness. We perpetually receive one another in this state. We greet friends and ask how are things and the answer in some iteration of “stressful.” We greet our families when they get together at home at night with “how was your day” and inevitably the answer is “stressful.” Hopefully, we have a family to go to (if not at home, at least by phone, for those who live alone), and a friend group. How do we go to that group? How do we receive our friends, and our family members? Do we receive them in an encouraging and restoring way, so that as they come back to the “nest” they are in a place where they feel less uneasy? Or do we greet them with the same stress they are greeted with by the rest of the world? It is critically important that in our homes, in our families, and in our friend groups, that we work to take away the uneasiness we all feel in the world with an infusion of encouragement and positivity. Because if a person feels uneasy out in the world, and also feels uneasy around family and friends, they never get a break from their stresses. If someone is stressed out driving home by the crazy drivers on the road, he or she can at least be comforted in their stress knowing it is about to be lightened when they walk through the door of their home or call a friend. If family and friends are ready to greet them with even more stress, then the uneasy feeling persists, compiles, and leads us to a sense of even greater despair, and sometimes even more serious things like sickness, because we never get a break from the stress.
Being part of the solution lies in how we deal with people we encounter in the world—drivers, co-workers, parents at the sports game, etc. Our example can potentially rub off on someone else. However, the greatest impact we can have on being part of the solution and not part of the problem is in our families and friend groups, because these are the people we interact with most often.
And when I say to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, I mean specifically with the problem of uneasiness, be someone who puts others at ease, rather than someone who adds to it, be someone who diffuses stress, rather than someone who causes it, and be someone who encourages and reassures, rather than someone who discourages and belittles.
Lord, there are lots of people who feel uneasy at times. I do. I know those around me do. Help me to be part of the solution of the problem of uneasiness by being an encourager, someone who is safe to be around, someone who sees stress in situations and tries to lessen it. Surround me with people who share this same goal of being part of the solution and not part of the problem. Surround me with people who will put me at ease in the times I feel uneasy. Allow me to put others at ease. Send people into my path today that I can serve as an encourager. Open my eyes to see opportunities to be part of the solution and the discipline not be part of the problem. Amen.
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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