The Golden Rule: Beyond Treating Others as You Want to be Treated


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Spiritual Teachings, Spirituality, Things I've Learned, Thought | Posted on 07-09-2014

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Golden Rule

Beyond The Golden Rule

We’ve all heard the saying “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Which of course means that we should treat people the way we would want to be treated.

Otherwise known as “The Golden Rule.”

I’ve tried to live by this rule as much as possible throughout my life. For instance, I don’t like to be yelled at, or hit, or talked to incessantly about things that I’m not interested in, so I don’t do those things to others. And yet I’ve also found myself in situations where I’ve somehow managed to unwittingly upset people or hurt their feelings.

Most of us don’t set out to see how mean we can be on any given day. So how is it that we can treat people the way we want to be treated and still end up upsetting them, or in extreme cases, causing them to no longer wish to associate with us?

Pondering this question, it occurred to me that perhaps The Golden Rule was wrong. Or maybe, more accurately, it’s incomplete. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you doesn’t take into account that we all have different thresholds of what is okay to be done unto us.

For instance, I have a very thick skin, so when people are sarcastic or tease me, I don’t mind. I feel that when people joke with me (even negatively) it means that they like me. I thrive on it. So following The Golden Rule, it’s often how I act with people I like. When a sarcastic remark comes to mind, I say it. And many times it gets a good laugh.

But other times it doesn’t.

It took me until recently to figure out that some people see jokes or sarcasm as being mean. I’m sure that’s obvious to those who are sensitive to sarcasm, but it’s often difficult for me to fathom that not everyone is exactly like me. (I know, right?)

You wouldn’t believe how many times in my life I’d be having a grand ole time with someone and suddenly they were mad at me. Which of course left me bewildered and wracking my brain to figure out what I said that triggered their negative response. Even when I think I have it figured out, I don’t always understand it because if they had said or done the same thing to me, I would find it amusing.

Does this mean that The Golden Rule is a crock?

Not at all. It means that it’s incomplete. We can do unto others as we would have them do unto us from now until kingdom come, and people are still going to interpret it through their own ego filters which will always be different from our own. The key then, is to treat others as they would like to be treated based upon their own unique situation in life. While we can use our own likes and dislikes as a guide, we must go beyond ourselves and step into the other person’s shoes. Except, how can we possibly do this for every single person we encounter?

The answer is to think and speak from our deeper, inner wisdom as opposed to our ego mind. While we can’t know what’s going on in everyone’s head, our inner guide is, in fact, all knowing. Which is pretty cool when you think about it!

Looking back, I’ve had many experiences where my wisdom kicked in before I said something that had the potential to cause pain in someone. And I’ve also had times where it didn’t kick in—or more likely I chose not to pay attention. When that happened, sometimes things would work out fine depending on the mood or state of the other person, but other times—not so much!

Then there were some surreal times when I was about to say something “iffy” online, let’s say on Facebook or in a blog comment, and I’d be stopped by a technology glitch. That is, the comment wouldn’t go through, or I’d suddenly lose Internet access. Those “signs” were enough to give me pause to realize that my comment was not the smartest thing to say to that person at that time. But that’s an extreme way for wisdom to have to gain attention, and it certainly can’t be relied on in all situations.

While I’m still not completely there yet, I’ve found the key is to always remember to pause and think before speaking (another wise old saying!). This in turn provides just enough time to access our deeper wisdom. Then it’s just a matter of listening and of course, following through!


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Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

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Hey, Jill…

I see you and I are on very similar paths (including the Yoga, though you’re definitely out ahead there).

I learned of the Platinum Rule from one of my Stephen Covey books. “Treat others as they want to be treated.” It definitely takes the Golden Rule a step further, and more difficult. Any guy who ever bought his wife a chain saw for Mother’s Day will (hopefully) agree. Seeking to please others with MY paradigm of treatment has a history of failure. I find this extremely challenging, as I don’t always sync up with others’ ideas of what ought to be…sigh. If it was easy, then our world would be a better place, I reckon.

Keep on keepin’ on…


Funny, after I made this post, my sister also mentioned the Platinum Rule to me. Definitely makes more sense!

I needed to hear this. Thanks. It’s been on the edge of my consciousness and this post illuminated it.

Better to be loved than “right”? The world is truly a different place for each of us.

Glad it helped illuminate things for you Teri!