First, Break the Golden Rule


We grow up being told to keep the Golden Rule – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” My advise to you today is simply – break it!  For those who know me, you know I’ve spent most of my life teaching children to follow the Golden Rule, so my advise may come as a shock to you. But I’ve been pondering this “rule” we live by and you may be surprised by my conclusions. The Golden Rule is actually a verse from the Bible – Matthew 7:12. My considered opinion is that, even though these words sound good, we’ve lost something important in the translation from ancient Greek. Deciding to treat others the way I want to be treated is actually a very selfish, unthoughtful thing to do. What? Why? That’s not what your mother or my mother taught us. But it is very true. Let me explain. Imagine it’s your birthday. Your partner has decided to give you the best birthday ever! So they stop and think – “do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Grasping the Golden Rule firmly in hand they plan their dream party – it’s a surprise, with everyone they and you have ever met. Loads of food, even more gifts, lots of people, small space, loud music, flowers everywhere (because your partner loves flowers). The party is so successful it lasts all night. The moment you open the door and are excitedly pulled into the florist like party room you want to die. While your party loves every minute of the party, it tortures you and never.. seems… to… end… It is the perfect party, it’s just not you. Your perfect birthday would be snuggling on the lounge with your partner, only pizza and a movie for company. Your gift of choice would simply be some words from their heart penned in a card. Maybe you have experienced something like this. Good intentions, risen from someone following the Golden Rule, that have led to something going wrong, maybe even hurt. That’s why I say  break the Golden Rule! I think that we lost something in the translation in our society. We assume this verse tells us to treat people the way we  want to be treated and to treat everyone the same way, but I don’t think this is entirely what Jesus Christ was saying. Yes, we need to treat people kindly because we want to be treated kindly. But further to that we need to “Do to others as they want done to them,” individually, uniquely. There in lies the error of execution.  We need to treat others in the manner they need or desire. To treat people the way I want to be treated is selfish. That means everyone gets compliments from me and no one gets hugs. That means I expect everyone to want to avoid sport and love giving presentations. That means everyone is motivated by encouragement and bored by research. As a supervisor, friend or family member, if I care about those around me I will put in the effort to discover, and remember, how people around me want to be treated. Then I will treat them in that way. In doing this I am loving them. In doing this I am fulfilling not just the letter but the full intent of the Golden Rule. In the work place this can be as simple as learning how someone else likes to be communicated with. Do they prefer emails? Sticky notes on their screens? Voicemail messages? Or for you to drop by their desk for a chat? When you treat someone else they way they want to be treated, everyone is happier. It takes more time, more energy to learn how to love others this way. It’s easier to just assume what you want is best for everyone else. We are not supposed to treat everyone the same way. We need to realise we are all different and desire to be treated according to the unique person we are.  So break society’s meaning of the Golden Rule and treat people differently, in the way they individually like, rather than just the way you want others to treat you. Do you agree or disagree? Add your thoughts below.  You may also like: