Most of us recognize just how truly hard this command actually can be in "real life". It is as though we want to say back to Jesus, "Yeah, but you don't know that other person as well as I do!" We want them to hurt as bad as we are hurting, or at least a fraction of it! We don't want them getting off "free" of any accountability for their wrong actions. We don't want them to be "pain free". We think there has to be SOME consequence for their bad behavior! The thing Jesus was trying to get across to us is that we wouldn't want God to have that attitude with us - so we shouldn't have that attitude with others.
If you came up in church, you probably remember hearing this passage referred to as the "golden rule" somewhere along the line. I even have a ruler I got somewhere with this passage printed on it! Living it out in our daily walk is a whole lot different than seeing it on a ruler or plaque on the wall! We have to put "feet" to those words and turn them into very practical and personal actions and this is where it gets very, very hard. The "simple rule" becomes much more difficult when "that jerk" who just got on your last nerve is sitting across from you at the diner! Now it gets "real" and the moment defines us.
I have had to ask for more "rewrites" of how I am defined than I honestly care to admit to, but in the interest of being totally transparent here - it has been a lot! My "defining moments" just didn't go as well as I might have wanted them to, but thank goodness I don't have to "live with" that definition forever! God can rewrite how it is I am defined as much as he can do it for you. Someone once quipped that as long as everyone could just live by that one "golden rule", we'd probably be all right as a society of people - as long as the right person was the one starting the chain of actions in the first place! In nursing, they often say we are supposed to take care of our patients as we would our own mother. If you don't like your mother, that could be a problem!
The principle is quite simple - the actions we reveal are not to be dependent upon the actions (or inaction) of another. We are responsible for us - not the other guy. We model the behavior - then we count on God to do the rest. It may mean we don't see the "consequences" of their wrong actions, but that is okay because we can trust God to do what needs to be done - he hasn't failed us yet and he isn't about to! Another way to look at this is that we don't know what has already happened in that individual's life, nor do we know what is right around the corner, or even a little further down the road. We know about now - the opportunity we have while we are together at this very moment. Our actions are all we can have control over - so when we respond as we'd have liked to be treated rather than getting all uppity or wigged-out about something, we are setting God up to do whatever he needs to do in that person's life. If we think about it that way, we might just be more inclined to return good for evil, love for hatred, and forgiveness for lame stuff people do! Just sayin!