Everybody’s heard of “The Golden Rule:”
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
It is a concept that has existed forever, but I read somewhere that it was Jesus who turned it on this positive angle. Everybody else– Confucius, the Greek philosophers– couched it in opposite terms:
Don’t treat anyone the way you don’t want to be treated.
It was “the law of reciprocity” and contained a rude (underdeveloped) sort of empathy. Sort of like another admonition I read on a twitter profile:
Be gentle with others. Everyone is fighting a secret battle.
All of these build on the idea that we know our own needs and that there is a commonality to our race (we’re all human) that allows us to recognize (from our own experience) what others would value and/or fear.
The frustrating thing about conclusions is that they are fully dependent on the assumptions that lead to them.
Even the Golden Rule.
I have been told more than once that I’m not like most people, and Jay had that great line last week, “You are a square in a world of circles. You come at things from such a *completely* different angle nobody else sees.”
The man wasn’t being critical or complementary. I think bewildered is the best word. It’s nice not to be the only confused one. And nice to be accepted, even “off center.”
So when I assume that others are like me, that they value and desire the same things– I can get in trouble.
For one thing, other people “golden-ruling” me really are trying hard, and I shouldn’t get offended when it doesn’t fit, and what I give other people (because it’s what I would have wanted) can land completely wrong.
So I think the level-to-aspire-to is The Platinum Rule:
Treat others the way they want to be treated.
By necessity this requires knowing the other person well enough to make a reasonable guess, but it also requires the presence of mind to apply what you know.
Many people I know (and I include myself in this category) are just plain-nice people. They’re not in the habit of doing unkind things, and I can’t think of situations where they would be deliberately hurtful to anyone.
But some of these people have hurt me.
And I have hurt some of them.
Here’s one specific example, going both ways– it relates (as I see it) to the way we process information differently. Continue reading