In the world of ethics, a few codes rise to a level of strength not seen anywhere else. Oddly, as a Realtor, the Code of Ethics I ascribed to when joining is not only powerful but enforceable. An agent found violating the Code can suffer professional and financial consequences. There isn’t much like the Realtor Code elsewhere in business, and that’s a shame. But, of course, it’s only as useful as its adherents make it and, as in any endeavor that makes large sums of money, it is oftentimes skirted and ignored.
Another Code we are all familiar with, at least in popular mythology, is the Hippocratic Oath. I always believed doctors swore to uphold this ancient and mysterious proclamation that would see to my safety and well-being while obtaining medical care. The most famous of the lines is this:
First, do no harm.
This sounds reasonable and good and practical. But it turns out it is not in the Hippocratic Oath and, sadly, that said Oath really doesn’t even exist, at least not in a way that we would be familiar with. But the idea of not harming the patient is embodied in the ancient writings and the idea of being careful not to inflict further damage while trying to cure the patient is certainly there in spirit. It’s not a good idea to practice in such a way that the operation was a success – but the patient died.
Among the world’s faith practices, at least the good ones, is the same idea. We, as humans and fellow sojourners on a path in this world, should strive to inflict as little damage as we can to others. Our goal, simple enough, is to share this world with other people as peaceably as is possible, giving room for others to find their way. Life is hard enough without having to worry about your neighbor being against you!
As a Christian I know my source and my basic walking instructions for everyday life – it was Jesus who told us this:
Do to others what you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
Interestingly, the author, Luke, was himself a physician.
But the idea is common, and divine, and well documented, among the Seekers in the history of mankind. Here’s a few examples:
Buddhism: 560 BC, From the Udanavarga 5:18- “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.”
Judaism: 1300 BC, from the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18- “Thou shalt Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Hinduism: 3200 BC, From the Hitopadesa- “One should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated.”
Zoroastrianism: 600 BC, From the Shast-na-shayast 13:29- “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others.”
Confucianism: 557 BC, From the Analects 15:23- “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
It shouldn’t be that hard but, of course, it is. The world is full of bullies and self-seekers and opportunists who would think nothing of taking what is yours and making it theirs. According to U.S. stats, there were 3.7 million robberies last year. Do unto others? Not hardly. An incredible number of people have never been grounded in the most basic of human instincts. And, just in case the robbers missed all the world’s religions, here’s a quote attributed to no one but common sense:
Commonsensism: A version of the golden rule put into modern, non-religious terms that some people live by is, “Treat people the way you’d like to be treated”.
See? You don’t have to go to church to do what is right.
My youngest daughter is in town, visiting between schools. Having graduated from college in Oregon (go Ducks!) she is heading to Emory University to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy. It’s always a joy to hang out with your adult children. These folks, after all, are what life has been about for me and my wife over the last three + decades. And I think they have all turned out fine. You know why? Other adults tell me is one way I know. For instance, Jamie stayed with the parents of a college friend in Colorado. They later told their daughter they wanted to keep her. You’re welcome, world. We tried and, hopefully, we can take some credit.
But as we sit out back catching up that’s not the story that really warms my heart. She talked about a girl back at U of O that she reached out to. They had common ground (Hawaii and athletics) but the girl told her that she had a hard time making friends, getting connected. And my daughter was open and kind to her, basically paving a way for her to get beyond her own little world. In other words, she treated her like she would like to have been treated.
Jamie loved her neighbor like herself.
Yeah, my daughter has had a successful Navy stint. Yeah, she has graduated from college. And yeah, she is heading to Emory and Doctor status. But the most important thing about her life to me is that she would befriend the friendless, reach out to someone outside the circle, love her neighbor. Because there is this one truth, no matter what you believe, no matter your accomplishments, no matter the degrees on your wall, and it is this:
It’s never wrong to do right.
Ironically, Jamie will (after some grueling work at Emory) be a Doctor. And perhaps be called upon to subscribe to that Hippocratic Oath. And while it may not really exist, she is already adhering to its core value:
First, do no harm.
And second? Do what is right. I still think Jesus said it best:
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
Doing right is the very basis of a civilized world and the very foundation of any faith worthy of the name. It’s never wrong to do what is right.