Pretend that everyone can punish you.

In some respects, “love your neighbor as yourself” could be interpreted to mean “act as if everybody’s well-being is equally important as your own”.

On road trips, we’re really good at acting like the well being of each person in the car is equally important, because everyone in the car with us can hold us accountable to treat their well being as important.

So perhaps a mental strategy to help me love my earthly neighbors is to pretend that they — all 6+ billion of them — each had as much ability to socially and materially punish my iniquities as the person squeezed up next to me in a little Honda Civic pounding its way across North America.

Thoughts?

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3 thoughts on “Pretend that everyone can punish you.

  1. I think that the proximity part of your construct seems useful.  You’d want to be careful, though, that the (imagined) punishment was not a major motivator (1 John 4:18: “Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”).

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  2. I don’t think that fear of other men is a good motivator.  First, as a philosopher it seems… insincere to base your behavior on something you know is false.  [Everyone cannot in fact punish you.]  Secondly, there’s really only one person to ever fear as a motivator.  Jesus puts it like this in Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Fear of God is a better motivator if you believe in God, I think.  First of all, the threat of punishment is real, or at the very least his commandments are there to keep us from butting our heads against the sharp objects in this life.  Second of all, he really does see what you’re doing at all times, so that’s a great deterrent. 
    I also have to go to 1 John for motivation to treat others well.  Quoting the whole epistle would work, but Chapter 4 is particularly relevant to loving others.

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  3. I think you’re both right. It’s not a good motivator. And in hindsight I don’t think I’m thinking in terms of motivation, but rather, calculation:
    What can I do to not show favoritism among all my neighbors? (Something I’m MOTIVATED to do because of God’s love for me, my love neighbors, love for and fear of God) Well, let’s see… what would I do if I were immediately accountable to all of my neighbors?
    Thanks for the sharpening input, friends.

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