January 4, 1994


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I believe there are two basic paths to achievement a person can choose. You can go for the gold, or you can go for the golden rule.

One path is pretty simple and it looks rather straight. It is the path of self-centered fulfillment—doing anything we want, anytime we want, with no regard for others or the rules of life. It bends and breaks the ethical code of the universe for all kinds of reasons. But in the end, the good, the right, and the true have been overlooked for the bad, the wrong, and the false.

This path appears to be the easy path at first glance. No rocks. No hills to climb. This journey will not even make me sweat, you say to yourself. But along the walk—especially toward the end—it starts getting difficult. You run into problems you never expected on this easy outing.

The other road, the road less traveled, is not always easy. It doesn’t even pretend to be easy at first glance. You immediately see the hills, curves, and challenges awaiting you. You know you’re going to break a sweat, and the possibility of twisting an ankle is high. But still you do it. And you find it richly fulfilling—something those who take the “easy” path just don’t understand. Why is it so satisfying to do the good, the right, and the true?

Because for most of us, the quest to satisfy individual wants and needs is not enough. In When Everything You Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, Harold Kushner writes: “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.”

Isn’t that the truth? If you’ve ever worked in a less-than-challenging work environment, you’ll understand Kushner’s writings intimately. There’s little worse in a job than putting in your 40 hours—with no sense of accomplishment to show for it.

Warren Bennis, an expert on leadership in the corporate world, believes that Americans no longer have any real heroes or outstanding leaders. “Once we admired Lindbergh, DiMaggio, or Astaire because they were examples of excellence; now our heroes are merely the rich and famous who have power, prestige, and lavish lifestyles. In the absence of anything better, we dote on show business stars, idolize corporate kings, and even admire people who have broken the law, slipped into immorality, or dropped out of society. We prefer to read about Madonna rather than Mother Teresa because the nun leaves us feeling shallow and sinful, while the superstar leaves us feeling self righteous and morally superior. ”

Our culture is in desperate need for a new crop of heroes. And we know it. Being a hero and being famous are not the same thing. My church is a special place. It is challenging and healthy all at the same time. One of the many things that I love about my church is the attention to plat forming the ordinary heroes of life. It has built into its culture the public affirmation of, “You are my hero.” On any given day I will overhear someone form my church either mentioning that another attendee is his or her hero. Or, even more impressive is the public declaration on the spot of some way looking at another member and saying you are really my hero in this area. We’re trying to counter the trend of pop culture heroes, instead marking the true heroes in our community. After ten years of that kind of affirming heroes are all over our community.

A hero is someone we can admire without apology. –Kitty Kelley

There is a world of difference in people who go for the gold and those who go for the Golden Rule:

People Who Go for the Gold…. People Who Go for the Golden Rule…

Ask “What can you do for me?” Ask “What can I do for you?”

Make convenient decisions. Make character decisions.

Sacrifice family for finances. Sacrifice finances for family.

Develop a rationale for their actions. Develop relationships with their actions.

Possess a “me first” mind-set. Possess an “others first” mind-set.

Count their dollars. Count their friends.

Base their values on their worth. Base their worth on their values.

1. Circle the descriptions above that best describe your mode of operation. On which side do you have more items circled?

2. What are the benefits of living by the Golden Rule? Why would you go for the gold instead?

3. Can you remember a situation where you acted according to the Golden Rule?
Describe the experience. How did you and the person you interacted with benefit?

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