I was having a conversation with someone I like and respect recently and they said something that sent me off down a rabbit trail of thoughts around what is usually called the Golden Rule.
I feel certain I learned this in Sunday School and the version I was taught goes something along the lines of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ but I couldn’t remember exactly so I asked the great and powerful Google for a little help.
A tiny little disclaimer that what I’m about to read to you came from Wikipedia and the history teacher in me feels I must remind you of the importance of doing primary source research and verifying everything. BUT I was already familiar with the concept in a broader historical and philosophical context and I just wanted an easy way to explain it. In all seriousness though, trust but verify ALL THE THINGS - even if they’re my things.
Ok, moving on.
“The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in most religions and cultures. It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although different religions treat it differently.
The maxim may appear as a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:
That seems like good advice, right? Something along the lines of "Don’t be a jerk."
But the thing is, not everyone wants to be treated the same.
Birthdays are a really good example. Some people want a huge party and lots of gifts If their people were to forget, they’d be crushed so they always do something like that for anyone they care about.
But what if they end up having a best friend or husband whose idea of the perfect birthday is a private retreat at some secluded location alone. That person would likely leave everyone alone on their birthday.
In both scenarios, the individuals would be treating the other the way they want to be treated and neither would be happy.
I say that with the caveat that I don’t think either person is responsible for the other’s happiness, but that’s one of those things that will get its own podcast eventually.
But this happens *all* the time.
I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the biggest problems in relationships of all types - familial, romantic, and platonic.
The thing is, if I assume everyone wants to be treated the same way I want to be treated, it also assumes what I want is right or the only viable option.
I even know people generally just mean to treat others with kindness and respect or decency or some other “nice” thing, but all of those also assume both parties have the same definition for those terms and the truth is they can vary wildly.
For example, if I’m sad, I want to be left alone. Don’t ask me if I’m ok, don’t drop by, don’t tell me there’s a reason for everything. If I wanted comforting, I’d have asked for it.
But from what I can tell, most people want to be checked in on. They want you to ask if they’re ok. So, I tend to say something along the lines of “Is there anything I can do to make this suck less for you?” and then I do whatever it is they say would help - whether that’s listening or going far far far away.
Because as much as I hate to break the news to both you and me, neither of us is the center of the universe.
The people around us have a whole set of thoughts, feelings, and desires of which we know nothing unless we’ve taken the time to ask. Even then we only know what they tell us based on how we understood the words they used. Trippy af, right?
We’re all individual planets with our own orbits coexisting in the same universe.
Alright, it’s time for a little music. While this episode was inspired by a conversation rather than a song, I did immediately hear the song that’s going with it, and the title is derived from the lyrics of Gold by Milck.
“Don't mistake my confidence
Don't mistake my self-respect
'cause it took me years
to turn these tears
from water into gold
I worked for it
I'm proud of it,
Sorrow into bold,
pain is beautiful
When it makes you grow,
turn these tears to gold,”
For me, self-respect is the foundation of a much better ‘Golden Rule.’
I respect myself enough to know that what I’ve experienced throughout my many trips around the sun isn’t the same as what others have experienced. What I want isn’t all there is to want and what I don’t want may be the very thing someone else needs to thrive as they move along their nearby orbit.
How do you want to be treated? Is the way you treat others based on your personal desires? Have you expressed your desires to others so they know that your orbits may vary? Do you ask others how they want to be treated and do you honor their preferences - as long as it’s not out of alignment with your own of course.
Spend time with these questions and see what comes up. If you’re feeling frisky, hit me up on Instagram and share your answers with me.
Until next time, my wish for you is a confidence in who you are that allows you to be wholly yourself while giving others the freedom to do the same and a willingness to break all the rules.