The Golden Rule is generally defined as treating others as you would like to be treated. Many religions have a version of this life philosophy, which provides a basic approach on how to interact with others. Specifically, the Bible says that "as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them" (Luke 6:31).
Why Don't More People Practice the Golden Rule?
In terms of friendship, the Golden Rule provides a guide on how to be a friend. If you want someone to laugh with, care about, and be there for you, then you need to do this for other people. Why then, is this so difficult for people to grasp? After all, if everyone lived by this rule, there would be no conflict or hurt feelings between friends.
One possible reason is that people don't always know how to treat themselves, and as a result treat others poorly as well. Perhaps they had a hard time with self-esteem or did not receive the unconditional love that every child should have. Learning the Golden Rule as an adult may take some time in that case, and a friendship or two may end because of poor behavior. When the person realizes what it takes to be a true friend, his or her behavior changes and strong friendships can be built.
Another reason people ignore the golden rule is that they don't see the benefit in "giving" to someone else. They view generosity of spirit as an emotional cost that they don't feel will ever be returned. Folks like these often want to be on the receiving end of the Golden Rule but don't reciprocate.
The Golden Rule and Social Grace
While the Golden Rule is the guide for kindness toward others, social grace expands on that to include manners and etiquette in society. Things like making proper introductions and maintaining good cell phone etiquette fall under the heading of social grace, while listening and being empathetic falls under the Golden Rule. The difference is that social grace is the outward behavior toward a stranger, and the Golden Rule is what happens with your heart.
For example, you might introduce someone properly and make small talk with them at a party, which is perfectly acceptable in terms of social grace. But to take that same scenario further and relate it to the Golden Rule, you would give that same person the benefit of the doubt, refrain from gossip, and treat them well not because someone at the party expects you to, but because you genuinely want to.
The Golden Rule and Arguments
When you look at arguments from the perspective of the Golden Rule, it means you treat your friend with respect even when you're angry. You don't send off a nasty email to them or call them out in front of other friends, but you wait until the two of you are alone and can discuss things calmly (or at least, privately.)
Sometimes people try and manipulate others not involved in the argument to get "on their side" when they have an argument with a friend. They might tell their side of things to as many people as they can in an effort to get sympathy, and they pull others in before their friend can even respond. Behaving in this way can add a sticking point to whatever the original argument was about, and may serve as a catalyst to end the friendship. When a friend cannot apply the Golden Rule to arguments, the other friend may just step back from the relationship because there is no respect there.
How to Use the Golden Rule as a Guide in Your Friendship
One of the best things about the Golden Rule is that it can change your relationships for the better, with a simple change in perspective. To use this rule as a guide for your friendship:
- Stop before you "blow up" to a friend, and think about what you'd like to have happen if the sides were reversed. Would you like your friend to yell and scream at you online, in an email, or in person? Take a moment to consider that, and it may mean that your response is tempered just enough to allow you both to work through your issues.
- The same holds true with making appointments, or choosing activities. Would you like to wait for a friend who is late all the time? Who can't meet you halfway? Or who insists on always choosing the activity?
- When a friend is having a hard time, do you genuinely pray for them and want things to work out? Or do you secretly take pleasure in the fact that they are struggling?
- Think about the times you're careless with your words or actions when it comes to friendship. Would you like to be treated that way?
Using the Golden Rule will help you have better friendships, but it must start with you. Change your approach and attitude, and your actions will follow.
"Claire just went off on Judy in front of everyone. I doubt she would have appreciated that if Judy had done that to her. Time for a little lesson on the Golden Rule."
"I just got a lesson in the Golden Rule when Jane stood me up for our lunch date. I've done that to her about five times in the past. Now I know what it feels like."