Don’t plan evil against your neighbor
who dwells trustingly beside you.
This proverb speaks to a compact in a healthy society, a very general contract. In a compact, things aren’t exactly spelled out, but in a healthy society generally there’s an uncynical assumption that you’re not out to get me.
When I order a delivery of ½ cord of firewood, I know very approximately how much I should get, but I’m also assuming that they’re going to load up what they think is ½ and dump all of it. I’d hate to discover after so many years that I’d been shorted 20 logs every year and had lost $75.
When somebody tells you something in confidence he can’t follow you around everywhere to make sure that the word won’t get out and his reputation suffer. You’ll keep it safe, right?
When you visit somebody in their home you’ll see her less guarded. Perhaps during the three hours you spend together he/she says something off color or especially stupid. Or perhaps you notice that they haven’t vacuumed under the sofa for years – there is an unspoken understanding that things will be overlooked, that they won’t become the object of slander.
Do justice. Don’t breach a trust.
You’re in a garage sale and there’s an old man selling a Tom Brady rookie football card for $3. The seller doesn’t know what he has. What do you not do?
Don’t do things that are wrong even if you can’t possibly be called out for it. I’m not being cold toward you. You don’t have any evidence of me doing that. You can’t prove that. I think they call that plausible deniability.
Just think of all the ways, passively or actively, that you could cook up to take advantage of others weakness, ignorance.
Yes, there will always be many opportunities to bilk people, to damage them, to secretly hurt them, to inflict pain without it being tracked back to you. There are.
You might be the sort of person who can spot a mile away the chinks in people’s armor. You have a refined character detector that always discovers others’ weakness and ignorance.
You might also be the guy – in a way you can’t help it – who has all sorts of words on the tip of your tongue that would go deep into someone; or you have all sorts of ideas to create havoc.
And we’re being told here: Do no harm. Be constructive. People in so many ways are counting on you to do the right thing, to not be shady, to not do what you could do.
Under the compact you and I dwell, I’m assuming that while you’re looking out for your best interests, you’re not going to harm me in the process. Keep the faith.