First Do No Harm

By Anthony Gold

Most physicians swear to the Hippocratic Oath upon graduating from medical school. A popular misconception is that the oath contains the phrase “first do no harm”. The actual wording is “take care that [patients] suffer no hurt or damage”. Regardless, the intent is not only true, but wise counsel for all of us.

Yet how often do we cause suffering or hurt? An honest assessment reveals that tally to be much more than we’d care to admit.

Consider how often we:

  • Think or utter unkind words
  • Use others to meet our physical or emotional needs
  • Judge individuals, countries, or religions / thought-systems to be inferior to us/ours
  • Manipulate situations to extract approval or praise from others
  • Gossip about someone pejoratively
  • Withhold kindness from others, except when it serves our desire to allay guilt or publicly exalt ourselves
  • Feel like our life is a failure or that we’re not good enough

Clearly the “do no harm” oath is far from top of mind.

But that need not be.

Whenever we judge others or ourselves, we are causing harm.

Harm is the outcome of judgment. It is the dishonest act that follows a dishonest thought. It is a verdict of guilt upon a brother, and therefore on oneself. (M-4.IV.1)

The dishonest thought is the belief that our brother is “worthy” of condemnation, and our accusation and judgment (whether acted upon or even contemplated) become the dishonest act. That “brother” is often the people we interact with in our lives, including our own self.

When we hold on to judgmental thoughts, whether of others or ourselves, we continually cause harm and wreak havoc. And it is the letting go of these thoughts that undoes the pain.

I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts. (W-pII.281)

Choosing a different thought system – one that speaks for the shared purpose and interconnectedness of everyone – leads to true healing and unfathomable joy. And whether or not we have a medical degree, harkening the sage guidance of Hippocrates is the key to experiencing that peace.

To those to whom harm has no meaning, gentleness is merely natural. (M-4.IV.2)

Join us in Monday’s class where we will discuss why we choose the harmful thoughts and how we can practicing a better way of thinking. I look forward to seeing you then.

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