We are all familiar with the golden rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
It’s a great saying to print out and hang in a classroom. But more often than not, when called to act, our response is based on the iron rule: “Treat others as they have treated you.”
Why do we do this? If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s because when people treat us poorly the golden rule is a lot less appealing. Sometimes we feel like we’re justified in using this iron rule because people are… Well, people are just mean.
But have you ever noticed this iron rule doesn’t get us anywhere good? In fact, it only seems to increase the problem.
For example, your friend said something behind your back, and it somehow finds its way back to you. Now, what they said was point-blank mean. And not only did they say it—they didn’t even say it directly to you. Of course you’re upset; you have every right to be!
So what do you do? Most likely you choose one of two options: You either retaliate with your words, or you give them the silent treatment. That will teach them to mess with you. Or will it? Because from any other vantage point, both options only seem to widen the gap in your relationship.
- They say something mean about you; you say something back; they get upset with you. And here you both are: offended, unhappy, and without a way forward.
- They say something mean about you; you give them the cold shoulder; they get frustrated with your lack of communication, and they continue to say negative things about you. Again, here you both are: offended, unhappy, and without a way forward.
It’s lose-lose when we choose to repay evil for evil. But what if there was a third option, an option far less predictable than the iron rule? An option even better than the golden rule. A remarkable option, really. Let’s call this one the platinum rule—the one where you treat people beyond what they deserve.
I know what you’re thinking: “Why in the world would I do that? If I give this person a free pass, then they win and I lose. They will just keep treating me like this.”
You might be right that they won’t change their behavior, but the ultimate win isn’t winning the fight you are in. The ultimate win is that now you get to walk away feeling free. The weight of their unkind actions will no longer hold you down.
And here is the good news: Even if they don’t change or choose to move forward, you still can. You can step beyond the predictable choice, and you can break the cycle. And that, my friends, is a remarkable choice.
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