The axiom from my childhood that I probably took most to heart is “Do unto others only as you would have them do unto you”. I remember observing people treating others poorly, and always wondering why. The most common answer I received was “That’s how they were treated when they were young – they don’t know any better”.
Now, this answer always stirred up a hurricane in my little growing brain. On the one hand, I understood the subtext to read very clearly: Don’t blame him/her, S/he can’t help themselves, S/he is not responsible, It’s not his/her fault. But something about that just never sat right with me. It seemed to me that someone who knew through first hand experience, what it felt like to be treated poorly, should have much greater empathy, and be that much more motivated to treat others well.
Years later, I am aware that human psychology is not that simple, and that all kinds of other factors come into play when we interact with others. Nonetheless, in our efforts to be kind to one another, sometimes a simple exercise can be a really useful tool for checking our own behaviour and motivation. Ask yourself which three words best describe your movement in the world. Then ask yourself if that is who you want to be.