The true measure of a man or woman…

Posted: September 20, 2016 in christian prayer, religion, spiritual care, spirituality
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By Charles W. Sidoti

The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) is so powerful because it sums up endless volumes of spiritual writing, laws, the teaching of the prophets, and religious debate into two simple sentences. In Mathew’s Gospel, when asked which commandments are the greatest, Jesus uses the following words echoing the ancient books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).

Author and poet Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) once said, “The true measure of a man or woman is how he or she treats someone who can do them absolutely no good.” LikeThe Golden Rule, Johnson’s statement cuts to the chase. When I read it, my heart sinks a little. It sinks because the standard that Johnson’s words set are quite high and because I know myself. I know that my behavior can be influenced by the presence of someone whose favorable impression I think will benefit me. Perhaps you can relate. We tend to perk up a bit or “put our best foot forward” when we are with our boss, our professor, or some other person that we consider to have some kind of power over us. We want to impress them. To a degree this behavior is perfectly natural, and we should not be too hard on ourselves about it. The wisdom of Johnson’s words rest not so much in that they cause us to change our behavior when we are in the presence of someone whose regard for us we consider to be important. Rather, the statement needs to inspire us to reflect upon our treatment of those from whom we think we have nothing to gain. It is helpful to remember that it was precisely such a marginalized person that the prophet Isaiah described in foretelling what the coming messiah would be like.

“He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem” (Isaiah 53:2-3).

The Contemplative Connection: Gracious God, may I reflect your merciful love to those in my life who stand in need of my mercy. Help me to acknowledge with gratitude your merciful love for me. Amen.


This article is an excerpt from my book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.” Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers website: 

Read the Introduction:

The Table of Contents


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