My grandfather had a talking parrot when I was a boy. The parrot repeated the things I said. For example, when I said, "Hello, hello" the parrot replied, "Hello, hello." When I said, "I love you, I love you," he answered, "I love you, I love you." It made me smile from ear to ear.
One day I did something bad and my grandfather spanked me. In a fit of anger I shouted, "I hate you, I hate you." To my surprise the parrot echoed back, "I hate you, I hate you."
That parrot taught me one of the unchangeable truths of human nature: life, like a boomerang, gives back what we give out.
Jesus says it like this: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31). Jesus formulated this golden rule as the active foundation of goodness and mercy. It is the kind of love God shows us every day.
Many religions say this rule negatively: "don't do to others what you don't want done to you." Jesus, however, states it positively and makes it more significant: "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12).
This immutable and remarkable principle challenges my faith every day. Most men in prison think: "If you're nice to me then I will be nice to you, but if you're ugly to me then that's how I will treat you."
The problem with that kind of thinking is that it allows the way someone else acts to determine how I behave. It doesn't work.
No one can change someone else — only God can do that. If you're waiting for someone to be nice to you, you might have a long wait. The place to begin is with the face staring back at you in the mirror. Change its attitude and watch the attitude around you change.
How we treat others will mirror our actions, sometimes even to greater degrees than we ever expected. Children mirror their parents, pupils mirror teachers, players mirror coaches and, more often than not, worshipers mirror their pastors. If the one communicating is harsh, demanding and unkind, guess what? The respondent will reflect those same attitudes. Like a parrot echoing back the words it hears, they will give you back what you gave out.
If you want others to judge and condemn you, then do the same to them. But if you want them to understand you, accept you for who you are, and look for the good in you instead of pointing to your mistakes, begin by being that way yourself.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers