I live my life in a state of constant exploration. There is rarely a moment where I am presented with new information and don’t consider how I can use it to improve my life and the lives of others. I particularly enjoy digging into opinions I inherently disagree with, so I can gain a better understanding of how someone's life experiences can cultivate an idea so different from my own.
Of course, I am just like anyone else when it comes to having some degree of close-mindedness. The spectrum of thoughts and ideas in regard to most topics is far too wide to not eventually find a point where my mind shuts off and settles for calling someone crazy or insane.
In fact, I think it’s safe to say I have never found where any of these spectra actually end, and frankly, I don’t care to. However, walking along the fringe provides me with far greater perspective and openness than I would come close to having if I chose to walk around with blinders on in search of some impossible comfort.
The most prevalent example of this is when I began rebuilding my character after transitioning from high school to college. I sensed the typical freedom any college freshman experiences when leaving home for the first time and with it, I found myself looking at a brand new horizon.
Breaking free from my apathetic state, I began to listen, like actually listen, for the first time in my life. I stopped filling my head with unsupported presumptions and allowed my mind to explore the world as if it were brand new.
I listened to the stories of people who grew up in circumstances completely foreign to me. When they invited questions, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more, so that I could better serve the world I was floating around in. I found myself engaged in discussions far outside of my narrow comfort zone, and as a result, I have expanded my view of “comfortable.”
Embracing discomfort and the potential for social confrontation leads me into what I want to discuss today, the Golden Rule. You’ve most likely encountered this “rule” in the form of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Every time I hear this phrase, I cringe, and make the very argument I’m laying out for you here. Why do we, meaning the world, follow the Golden Rule so blindly without considering how selfish of an idea it really is? Are we to actually think the way we would like to be treated is the way everyone would like to be treated? And before the word “semantics” comes pouring out of your mouth, I’m going to stop you right there.
The way we choose to express ourselves, particularly in the English language, has powerful effects on how we accept or reject accountability. We have a love affair with speaking in the second person (e.g. “you” or “your”). Even when we talk about ourselves. Seriously spend a day listening to the way you speak about anything and everything. Reform your sentences by using “I” and see how the tone of the message changes.
Whenever I write the very things on Your Pen Paul, I am conscious of the way my message is being delivered. When I want to speak negatively without a sense of blame overtaking the room, I take care to bring a sense of togetherness by using the first person plural (e.g. “we” or “us”). On the flipside, when I want to light a fire under your keister, I will intentionally use the second person, creating an accusatory tone.
The Golden Rule is so widely accepted because we read it and say, “yeah, I can take an approach to life that allows me to focus on myself” when we should really be asking ourselves, “what needs are unique to that individual and how can I provide for them in an intentional manner?”
To rework things a bit, I would say “do unto others as they would like done unto them.” Now, I have seen some people calling this the Platinum Rule, which is petty and unnecessary. It is completely ridiculous to label an edit such as this in a way that says “my way is superior.”
First of all, I’m sure many of you reading this don’t interpret the Golden Rule as an inherently selfish creed. You probably have a set of universal principles you believe are relatable to and desired by all of mankind.
For instance, you like to be treated kindly and assume others hold the same feeling, so “do unto others, yada, yada, yada” seems perfectly applicable in this scenario and I completely agree. What I simply ask for you to do is this: find it within yourself to accept that the needs of someone else might not reflect your own and at the same time discover how these different needs, when filled, provide nothing but positive benefits to both parties.
If you choose to make this minor shift in your personal philosophy, you might find your social circle expanding well beyond the homogenous landscape you have been caring for.