Garthia Elena Burnett: A code to live by

May 14, 2010 10:20:00 AM

Garthia Elena Burnett -


The Columbus City Council recently nixed a proposed code of ethics. 


Brought on by an April 1 fist fight between City Councilman Kabir Karriem and Mayor Robert Smith, the code would have duplicated much of the state''s ethics code. 


So the councilmen, on advice from City Attorney Jeff Turnage, forewent writing a local ethics manual. 


Councilman Charlie Box, who proposed the code, said it was about "civility and dignity." 


Though the city''s ethics code is dead, I''d like to propose a code for them -- and us all -- to follow. 


It was written thousands of years ago and continues to be valid today. 


It''s a code, not of an eye for an eye or crime and punishment, but of love. 


And love is against human nature. 


Not the love we feel toward our mother, father and brothers and sisters -- storge, in Greek -- a familial love that comes pretty innately most days. 


Not the love we feel toward our closest friends, who we''d almost anything for - phileo, in Greek -- brotherly love. It just sort of manifests itself over time. And before we know it, we''ve grown a fondness and attachment to each other that''s not easily broken. 


These things come pretty easily. 


Most of the time, we don''t even have to try. 


But true love -- agape love -- is a different story. 


It''s an altruistic love, one that puts you before myself even when you don''t deserve it. It''s unnatural. 


When you hurt me, I want to hurt you back. 


When you steal from me, I want to take it back. 


And when you lose my trust, I never want to offer it back. 


Agape love says, my love for you is unconditional; and whether or not you accept it or return it, I will not mistreat you. 


In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul tells us this about agape love: 




Love is patient. 


Love is kind. 


Love does not envy. 


Love does not boast. 


Love is not puffed up. 


Love does not behave itself unseemly. 


Love is not self-seeking. 


Love is not easily provoked. 


Love thinks no evil. 


Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but in truth. 


And finally ... Love never fails. 




Everyone we have loved, at some point or another has lost their patience with us, been mean to us, been selfish and let us down. 


How we respond is a reflection of our own character and maturity. 


Where would the incident at City Hall have begun or ended had both, or one of, these men shown agape for one another? 


The Golden Rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 


The Platinum Rule says do unto others as they would have you do unto them. 


Either of these would work, in theory, but how I want to be treated is not necessarily how someone else wants to be treated. 


And how they want to be treated might not be acceptable in my book. 


So perhaps we should treat them as the Bible says, without selfishness, without regard for our own personal hurt. 


Sounds absurd. I know. 


Someone asked me last week during a Bible study, "How do you define forgiveness?" 


Forgiveness, to me, is relinquishing your rights -- both your right to be hurt and your right to use the incident as a weapon or bargaining tool in the future. 


It takes a heart that''s not only willing to let go of hurt but open up again, even with the chance of more hurt to come. 


It''s easier said than done -- just like it''s easier to swing a fist in a fit of rage than to live by a code of love.