The Golden Rule
From the time we were all little, going through the ranks of grade school, we’ve learned many rules. Rules like: no running with scissors, wait an hour to swim after eating, don’t swallow gum, don’t touch anyone with cooties, whoever smelt it, dealt it, etc. I could list a number of rules from childhood but there was one rule that surpassed them all. No matter your age, gender, race, or culture, no one rule is more universally recognized than “The Golden Rule”. You learned it, I learned it, we all learned it. But in the .001% chance that you might not know what it is, it is as follows:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
A simple, yet beautiful framework to operate out of….
I treat you in a way that I would want you to treat me. Simple, right?
Look around the world, look at politics, or even look inside of a high school classroom. People are being made fun of, insulted, disrespected, and killed……BY OTHER PEOPLE!!
What has happened to us as adults? Why doesn’t the golden rule possess the same luster that it did when we were young? Why is there so much pain inflicted on people by people in a world that knows the golden rule?
I suppose it’s because we first experience pain and then we let the hurts alter our framework for behavior. We find ourselves in disagreements or painful situations and act out of these frameworks. In these moments we trade the golden rule for a copper rule and it’s no longer about me treating you how I want to be treated. It becomes about treating you like you treated me or even treating you how I think you might treat me. We begin to let attitudes of suspicion and retaliation drive our behavior down treacherous paths.
I consider the golden rule to be a golden investment. It’s an investment that was made in our lives as young people and in turn we make the same investment in the lives of our children. The hope is that the return on investment is a person that is kind, caring, and compassionate.
Like on Wall Street, some investments go bad. But for the sake of society, this has to be an investment that we protect at all costs.
How to protect your investment (Golden Rule Insurance)
1. Value Yourself
Were you expecting something like “value others?” Don’t get me wrong, I believe that’s important too but I believe at the base of the golden rule is the value that you place on yourself.
The problem in our society is not just a broken rule, it’s broken people. Maybe some people treat others as less because they themselves feel like less. Hurt people, hurt people and that’s whether it’s pain from others or its self inflicted.
That’s why the relationship that you have with yourself is vital to how you treat other people. If you don’t accept and get along with yourself, how can you expect to get along with others?
2. Promote the WE story not the ME story
We live the stories we tell ourselves. Meaning our actions, behaviors, and beliefs toward someone or a situation flows out of what we have first told ourselves about them.
In any given moment where the rule can be applied, I can choose one of two stories to tell. I can either tell myself a story that puts me at the center and produces outcomes that only benefit ME or I can tell myself a story that is all inclusive, working towards solutions that don’t just benefit me, but WE. What about this situation is unpleasant for me? What about it is unpleasant for you? How can WE reconcile this for each of us? If you have an opinion, give someone space to have their own opinion too.
Telling the WE story tears down the walls of pride and ego and opens the door to communication and community. The golden rule is all about the “WE”. There is a reason why you can find a form of the golden rule in every major religion. It is the foundation to a sustainable community.
3. Allow Room for Imperfections
Nobody is perfect. We as human beings know this and yet we still allow our expectations for other people to get the best of us. NEWS FLASH: Sometimes people are going to let you down. Sometimes you are going to let other people down. But the problem is that we don’t give people the same leeway that we want for ourselves.
For example, you’re running late to a meeting and you know the reason why is because the alarm didn’t go off, the kids were sick, the car was acting up, a wreck caused a traffic jam, etc. Any one of these factors are valid reasons to explain your tardiness. Now let’s flip it. It’s you that is waiting. And now what’s going through your mind is they don’t care, they are irresponsible, how could they?, etc. You have “reasons”, but other people have “excuses”.
The golden rule is not only doing unto others what you would have them do to you, it’s also giving people the slack that you give yourself. See yourself in people but even further than that, see your imperfect self in people.
Knowing the rule and practicing the rule are two very different things. It’s easy to spout out a couple of words and claim to have knowledge of it. But wisdom comes in knowing and doing. It’s not necessarily easy putting others first. Because if it were, we wouldn’t need some rules to guide our behavior. It is human nature to protect self and lookout for number 1. Anyone that tells you otherwise, just watch them at the Thanksgiving table.
“We have committed The Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.” — Edwin Markham
Stay golden my friends…