The elders in my childhood had a number of sayings they often repeated. “Your face is going to freeze like that” and “If your friends were jumping of a bridge, would you jump too?” are a few that come to mind.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing, or maybe I was just a very inconsiderate kid who needed consistent reminding, but I could swear that most of my childhood experiences elicited one of their favorites -- the golden rule.
For those of you unfamiliar with this, tsk tsk to your elders, but here it is:
“Do Unto Others
As You Would Have Done
I heard this guide line so often that it clogged my every pore – eventually it sunk in. As a teen and young adult, I tried my best (which isn’t always that good, mind you) to incorporate this rule into my life.
And then I realized it was completely wrong.
Many years ago, I went out with two friends to catch a movie. In my mind, the best seat is the seat between two friends -- I can engage with both and feel like I’m right in the middle of things.
This particular night, I noticed that one of my friends seemed down. Oh! What a great golden rule moment, I thought. I offered her the BEST SEAT and thought I was being considerate for having suggested it.
While I was out of the room making a popcorn run, the down friend turned to my other friend and complained about the seat I had placed her in. “I prefer the aisle seat,” she stated glumly, annoyed that I had taken it from her. My other friend, who knew me better, was able to explain that I had actually given away the seat I preferred the most and that I would happy to swap back.
By the time I got back with treats from the lobby, everything was all sorted out.
It probably took more than a dozen incidents like this – some big, some small – to make me realize that I seriously needed to rethink this whole golden rule thing.
Now, if you’re going to cross-stitch anything for my kitchen – it should read more like this:
Yes, it can take a substantial amount of work to even come close to understanding how someone else would like to be treated. There are books you can read, there are questions you can ask, there are stories you can listen to…
But the first step, the biggest one in my opinion, is to recognize that not everyone thinks, feels, or makes decisions exactly like you do. How lucky for you, that just by having read this, you’ve pretty much made that first step?
Have a nice walk!