This classic saying is ingrained in most of us. I don’t even remember where I first learned it, but I’ve known for as long as I can remember that it’s “the golden rule.” There is a version of this “rule” in nearly all of the world’s major religions and philosophical systems, and it seems to me to be a pretty basic and pretty decent code to live by.
When it applies to strangers, the rule works only in a general sense – treat others with respect, just as you would hope to be treated with respect. If we took it literally, it might not apply at all. People from different cultures, or with different ideals, would not necessarily like to be treated exactly as someone else would.
In fact, that kind of treatment might even end up being disrespectful. When we take the golden rule to have a compassionate “live and let live” sense, though, it works on a big scale. For the people we hold near and dear, however, we can take this saying a little more literally – but with a twist.
Treat Others… How?
So often we fall into the trap of doing what we want, or what we think should be done, instead of what the people we love want. How do the people in your life like to be treated? How do you like to be treated? If we pay attention to what the people we love and care for actually want and need, we can strengthen our relationships with them, not just by treating them the way they want to be treated but also by showing them we care enough to pay attention and respond accordingly. When we know what we want and need, we can work on effectively communicating that with others, so that this new take on the golden rule will work for us as well.
For instance, when my daughter hurts herself while running or playing, my first instinct is to run to her and scoop her up, or at the very least brush her off and try to make her smile. This also happens to be the last thing she wants me to do. Unless she’s really hurt (like mega-tears, goose egg on her head hurt), she wants to be left alone to shake it off. She gets overwhelmed and embarrassed at attention and this quickly turns to anger at anyone who tries to comfort her.
While we are working on this response (because the people who love her want to make sure she’s okay and not be yelled at for it!), I have learned that what she needs at the time is space, a quick “Whoa, what a fall! Let me know if you need me.” It goes against every mothering instinct I have, and it’s not what I wanted as a kid, but it’s what she wants. It’s how she would like to be treated. And I am learning that that’s the important thing.
I think most of us would like to be treated with courtesy and respect, so the classic golden rule still holds strong, especially on a large scale. But we can take it a step further with the people in our lives, by listening to their wants and needs and respecting how they would prefer to be treated.