Monday, September 27, 2021

The Golden Rule

“Treat others as you would like to be treated.”  The Golden Rule is one of the first lessons we learn in school, and it’s our introduction to empathy.  We’re taught that our actions affect the people around us, and we must take their feelings into consideration before we act.  The Golden Rule is drilled into us as kids, and it leaves us with a codependency complex as adults.

According to the Golden Rule, there is an order of operations to handling conflict.  First, we must think ahead to how our actions will make the other person feel.  Then, we react to the situation accordingly.  It sounds good on paper, but when you base your actions on how to make another person most comfortable, you lose sight of one very important component: yourself.

There are a few key items that the Golden Rule fails to address.  For example, what if the other party in a conflict is not treating you well?  As much as you should consider how your actions are affecting someone, you should also consider the source.  Why do you care what this person thinks of you?  Is it because you like and respect them, or is it because you’re subconsciously following an antiquated rule from elementary school?


Nice people tend to avoid conflict, and the Golden Rule is to blame for that.  When someone mistreats a nice person, the nice person will probably just let it happen.  In a nice person’s mind, standing up for yourself implies that a conflict will inevitably follow.  According to the Golden Rule, conflict should be avoided by acting in a way that will make the other party comfortable.  So, as a nice person, you think, “If I do this, what will the other person think of me?”

By approaching conflict in such a way, you’re placing your value in the perception of others.  If that person is mistreating you, why should you care if they like you?  It’s great to have empathy, but when the desire to make other people feel comfortable alters your behavior in a way that is detrimental to you, you have a problem.

There is nothing wrong with standing up your yourself.  In fact, the only people who will be offended when you stand up for yourself are the ones who were benefitting from using you as a doormat.  You are allowed to make decisions based on the question of “How will this make me feel?” rather than “What will this make them think of me?” Your needs will never be met when your only focus is satisfying the needs of others.  Consider yourself.