ISSUES IN FAITH: Choose moral leaders by applying the Golden Rule

How can we find those who would best navigate us through difficult times with integrity and a firm moral compass? I suggest we choose our leaders as we would our friends.

“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

— Psalms 94:19

OUR WORLD CAN sometimes feel dangerous and chaotic, and we are in need of good leaders, both religiously and politically.

How can we find those who would best navigate us through difficult times with integrity and a firm moral compass?

I suggest we choose our leaders as we would our friends.

Do we want to surround ourselves with people who think only of themselves, are full of anger and fear, and cause us to suspect those different from us?

Or do we want someone who reflects empathy, loving-kindness and sees God’s Holy Spark in everyone?

These values can be found across the political spectrum and in all faiths. No group has a monopoly on them.

The one unifying concept in every spiritual path is the principle found in the Golden Rule: “Do not to others what is hateful to you.”

I used the Jewish version for a reason.

Though the intent is the same in the one most commonly used, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you” can lead to different results.

What if you are a sadist who enjoys pain or cruelty? What if you believed the sacrifice of someone’s life would bring about good? What if the death of innocents justified your ends?

By following the Jewish phrasing, people might more likely refrain from being hurtful to others.

Those struggling with making a decision about any leader, whether they are seeking a local or national position, would do well to use the standard of the Golden Rule to measure the aspirant’s personal values, ethics and morality.

Have they worked with all their heart to bring about tikun olam, the repairing of our world? Do they reflect the values that our faith teaches us? Do they espouse taking care of the poor and desperate among us, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, taking care of those alone in the world? Have they resisted making material wealth their “god”? Have they spent their lives trying to fulfill the goals encouraged in all faith traditions? Would they strive to further these values?

Another important characteristic to be considered in choosing our leaders is whether they are what Rabbi Karyn Kedar calls “sustainers.”

Do they nourish people’s souls, seeing the divine spark in everyone? Are they positive about humanity and see the good in people, bringing out the best in everyone around them? If they were our friend, would they be a person whose company we would want to keep? Do they reflect the life we wish to live?

Kedar encourages us to surround ourselves with people who see that our hearts are filled with love and grace. Would this person fit that description?

By choosing our leaders as we would our friends, we can envision them as true “sustainers” in our lives.

“The people in your life mirror your world. If they are hollow, dull, or cruel so will you see your life. If they are loving, inspirational, and supportive, you will reflect their beauty” (Kedar).

We must ensure that all our leaders reflect the best in humanity. Choose wisely.

Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will. Shalom.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by four religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community.

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