What is your Golden Rule – treat others as you would like others to treat you, or do not treat others in ways you would not like to be treated?
Maybe you read a book you really liked and, wanting to share that excitement, recommended it to your friend. That would be an example of the former.
Maybe you do not like broccolis or mushrooms or tomatoes, so you have a hard time convincing your kids to eat them. (I like them all, by the way!) That would be an example of the latter.
You make inferences off yourself all the time, whether consciously or not. But what if there is someone you cannot extrapolate from yourself? What if you have never met them before, or you have yet to find anything in common with them? What if there are still too many variables unknown about them?
Well, then, maybe a third option should be considered… leave alone others you have no clue about how to treat.
And today was one of those days I wished people would just leave me alone, because they had no clue how to treat me! I know my people are generally very polite people, but today I thought their politeness was excessive to a point it got outright rude.
Maybe they were well-mannered and courteous throughout.
Maybe they spoke the language most appropriate for the occasion.
And maybe they thought by so doing, they were abiding by their Golden Rule… treating me politely, or not treating me impolitely.
But they were nothing more than superficial acts and words. I felt no consideration or compassion for me. Thankfully, though, at least there were no disrespect or discreditation either. So I have come to think they were being polite just for the sake of it… and I am going to believe they did not intend to be rude in doing so.
Now, do I want to see them again? Not really, not if they continue to be the way they are. I do not wish to treat them with hollow acts and words, which are all I can give in return at this point for what they have offered me so far. Nevertheless, I am glad I met them today. I learned an important lesson from them.
Maybe the Golden Rule is not simply about the actual ways you do or do not treat others, and politeness is not simply about good manners and nice language.
Maybe they are not ends in themselves but only means to an end… they should not be exercised to feel good about yourself for the way you treated others, but to make others feel good about the way they were treated by you.
And maybe what is needed is an underlying feeling of care for another – whether as families and friends, neighbours, colleagues and business partners, or general others – in order to achieve that end.
We meet new people all the time and often have to try hard to find something in common with them. Despite our best efforts, sometimes they remain largely unknown to us, making it difficult for us to relate to them. In those cases, maybe we are tempted to apply our own Golden Rule just so we can feel good about ourselves for acting polite to even those we have no feeling of care for.
But maybe that is the rudest way we can behave. Maybe we should refrain from forcing our rules on them and leave them alone… at least until we can find in ourselves the heart to look for clues to their preferences, thereby growing a feeling of care for them.