Why The Golden Rule Isn't So Golden?

My husband was born in the southern United States and raised in a military family. I never have to ask if he’s on the phone with his mother or his father, because it’s obvious. It’s a constant stream of “Yes, sir,” or “Yes ma’am.” It’s his way of showing them respect.

We live in the midwest now. If a woman asks him a question, he still says, “Yes, ma’am,” because that’s what he was taught was respectful behavior. Except now, the response back to him is usually, “Quit calling me ma’am!” because what he was taught was respectful behavior is now being interpreted as the exact opposite - disrespect.

Every religious and spiritual tradition has some version of The Golden Rule: Treat other people like you would want to be treated. But what if they don’t want to be treated the same way?

What if The Golden Rule isn’t so golden?

It’s easy to assume that everyone has a similar interpretation for the most basic values in life - like respect or integrity or excellence. The thing is, we don’t.

We may value the same things, but how we express our values may be quite different. And, just because we behave differently doesn’t mean that we don’t value the same things.


Compassion means:

  • Understanding ourselves well enough to discern between our values and our behavior;
  • Knowing that there’s not just one way to express the same value;
  • Valuing different ways of being, including those that seem quite divergent from our own; and
  • Treating others the way they want to be treated, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable for us..

My invitation to you this week is to stop making assumptions about how others want to be treated. Instead, observe how they act. Or, better yet, simply ask them. And then, treat them as they want to be treated.

After all, wouldn’t that be the most respectful thing to do?

Join me on social media to let me know about your values and the different ways you express them.



© 2017, Susan McCuistion

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