Deconstructing the ‘golden rule’

Do you remember being young and being taught to follow the “golden rule?” The rule that said treat others the way you would like to be treated? It always seemed simple and lovely enough, so I followed it for most of my life — until recently. A more critical eye allowed me to apply some skepticism towards this philosophy.

My conclusion is that the golden rule applies to those people you do not know well, such as your accountant or someone you chat with in line ahead of you at a store. The golden rule functions as an excellent reminder to treat others with the respect and compassion that you yourself would appreciate. Having said that, as we enter into the realm of close friends, family and significant others, I propose the “platinum rule”: treat others the way they would like to be treated.

On many occasions, I have felt compelled to recognize and thank someone I love for their kindness and positive impact on my life. My family is big on toasts and speeches. On my mom’s birthday this past year, I wrote her a fairly lengthy toast that both thanked and made fun of her, and I read it in front of our family.

She laughed and loved it, but as I think about some of my more shy and introverted friends, I can say quite confidently they would much prefer a card or more private means of communication. By the same token, it’s important to recognize that not everyone shows love and appreciation in the same way.

Some people express themselves with words. Others let their actions speak for them. My oma is an excellent example of someone that prefers to express herself through acts of love as opposed to words. Often when we’re ending a phone call, I’ll say, “I love you!” and she will respond, “Bye!” but I would never question her love for one second, because she will spend hours sewing a rip in my shirt, paint me the most incredible artwork and always have my favourite foods in the house when she’s expecting me.

Like every sunset or every snowflake, we are all different.We have our own set of likes and dislikes and I believe these preferences should be taken into consideration in order to cultivate the most loving and mutually respectful relationships possible.

Imagine for a moment that we are all the same; with the same emotional needs and preferences. While it would be considerably easier to determine how our actions and our behaviour would impact one another, there would be no diversity.

I believe it’s our diversity that makes us beautiful, that allows us to fall in love with one another, to collaborate and to see the world through multiple perspectives. Diversity of personality and preference also means that we have different sets of needs that should be taken into consideration, at least for the people we hold close.

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