My mom always said, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” This is a mantra of my youth that tumbles as easily out of my mouth as reciting the Our Father. Like so many family sayings, these words are already making their way down to another generation, as I often catch myself saying the phrase to my own children. I chuckle when I hear one of my kids say to another, “Treat me the way you want to be treated.”
Mom’s words took on a whole new meaning for me when I took and later taught Dale Carnegie classes and came across these words: “Treat everyone you meet as if one’s heart was breaking, because it probably is.” Dale Carnegie’s words captured the reality of human hearts: we all struggle.
The time I spend listening to the stories of people’s lives and prayer within the ministry of spiritual direction echoes the wisdom of my mom and Dale Carnegie. People’s hearts are often breaking. There is birth and death, joy and loss, clarity and confusion. And yet, the beautiful people sharing these stories are witnesses of hope. God shows up and is part of the stories people courageously share.
Listening to others opens me to be more compassionate to what others may be facing and quietly living through with no one noticing. Listening invites me to notice the brave warriors and disciples of hope that are living among us, fighting their battles and never losing their faith. And, somehow, listening to others encourages me to continue the walk of faith and face whatever life throws my way, because I know I am not alone in either the struggles or the joys of life.
As a kid I would never have dared to speak these words, but as an adult, I proudly claim them: “Mom’s right!” Treat others the way you want to be treated. Dale Carnegie is right: treat everyone you meet as if one’s heart is breaking. And let us not forget that both of these sound very similar to the second part of the Great Commandment given to us by Jesus: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mark 12:31)