“I’m not hurting anyone”

I think somebody dropped the ball on teaching “The Golden Rule”.

Everyone knows what it says: we are supposed to treat others in the way we would want to be treated.  So simple, so clear, and it seems to cover all the bases.

However…

Somewhere along the line, it seems to have turned into meaning that, so long as you are not doing something with the intention of harming someone else, what you are doing is perfectly fine.  At least that’s how Ben Harper seems to interpret it…

my choice is what I choose to do
and if I’m causing no harm
it shouldn’t bother you
your choice is who you choose to be
and if you’re causin’ no harm
then you’re alright with me

How can you argue with that logic?  He uses these lyrics specifically to justify smoking pot, but we often see this exact logic employed to justify all sorts of things: from drinking with the intention of getting drunk, to cheating on a test, to sleeping around, etc.

Hey, we’re not hurting anyone.  So why make such a fuss?

Well first of all, as Catholics, we don’t believe something is a sin just because it hurts our neighbor.  Ultimately, sin is sin because it hurts us—by harming our relationship with God.

And even putting aside religion for a moment, as human beings we need to realize something….

“The Golden Rule” presupposes that you have a certain love of self.  If it didn’t, it wouldn’t make much sense.  We don’t often like to talk about loving ourselves because we think it sounds selfish or shallow.  But I’m not talking about the kind of self-love you have after watching a Julia Roberts movie that makes you want to abandon your responsibilities, travel the world, and “find yourself”.  I’m talking about real love of self—a love that isn’t satisfied with mere fleeting pleasures; a love that seeks, and works for, the good in everything.

The thing is, when we get to the point of realizing this kind of love in ourselves, we also realize that we can’t really be neutral in our actions.  Whether we want it to or not, every action of ours will either work for the good or for the detriment of the world around us.  Because we live in the world, and if the end we seek is the good, then anything less than that is beneath us (read: not good, or bad).

It’s a tall order…but it’s better than trying to “just get by”.