As a child, my family instilled the biblical rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12) and I’d carried it with me throughout my life. It would seem to make sense that if we don’t want to be treated a certain way, then why would we do something like that to someone else?
But in recent years, I’ve come to question that rule. Though it resonates when it comes to harming another – lying, stealing or betraying someone and I think most would agree with that – does it makes sense as applied to our daily interpersonal relations – how we interact with our family, friends, colleagues and strangers?
My questions have been raised time and time again when some experiences proved that we don’t all want to be treated the same way. What some welcome and desire, others disdain and repel. The words and actions some need, others don’t want. What excites one, drains another. Some people connect quickly, while some take a good amount of time to warm-up.
We are such complex human beings, intricately wired. Our personalities may share similarities, yet be quite different overall. Our friendship and love styles vary. Our wants and needs are not one size fits all.
For me, I have found that when choosing a life partner, we should seek shared core character traits, morals, values and beliefs that will create a foundation on which we can build a solid, lasting union. But I have also learned that if I treat you how I want to be treated, it may not be what you need and in the end, that can result in the slow decay of any relationship.
So I adapted the Golden Rule, weaving it into my daily life in a way that I believe will pave the way for authentic connections and healthier relationships. It is based on consideration, respect and care for others in an effort to reach a mutual understanding that allows for growth.
“Do unto you – as you would want done to you.”
This requires energy. This requires consciousness. This requires focus. This requires us to shift away from superficial words and actions that, though not intentional, become a lazy, insincere and robotic way of communicating.
The Golden Rule is based on goodness and intended to keep others safe from harm, however, we should value each other even more than that and take the time to listen. We need to pay attention and be attuned to not only to what they say, but what they do.
Relating to others is not one-dimensional. It beckons us to step-up, to step into the shoes of another and make a serious effort to connect – genuinely connect. It’s a cocktail of observing, listening and being present. If we only treat someone like we want to be treated, we may also be subconsciously expecting them to respond or act in the way we would, as well. We may want them to be like us, think like us and live like us. We may be blind to, rather than cognizant of, the differences which can lead to unnecessary confusion and conflict.
Whether we realize it or not, we often try to change people, working to persuade or coerce them into doing what we want. When they don’t cooperate, we get frustrated and take it as a personal slight. But in reality, they are just being them. And though there are many areas and times in life when we need to compromise, asking people to be who they’re not is unfair and unhealthy. No one wins.
When someone makes the time to learn what we need, we cannot help but feel a sense of comfort and peace in their presence. We are afforded growth within the relationship because that person has an awareness of what we need as a human being – who we are – and it is a safe place for us to share – to be honest and open, trusting that the other person gets it.
I find my strongest connections are with people who are not necessarily like me and may, in fact, be polar opposites in many ways. But I meet them where they are. I treat them in the way that they want to be treated and through that interaction, our relationships flourish and continue to grow through the years.
Embracing our individuality as humans, acknowledging our idiosyncrasies and varied personality quirks can serve as a vehicle to unity. It’s not my way or the highway. It’s not you receiving me in the way that I want – but rather you relating to me in the way that you need.