Editor’s note: The following article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.
By Ox Drover
Jesus said to “treat others as you would have them to treat you.” I have tried to live more or less by this rule most of my life. I have tried to treat others as I would have them treat me. I have shown compassion, pity, love, consideration, caring and kindness to those who I hoped would also treat me with compassion, pity, love, consideration, caring, respect and kindness.
Unfortunately not everyone that I treated as “I would that they treat me” reciprocated my treatment of them. I always paid back any money that I ever borrowed, but I loaned money to those who would not repay me. I was kind and understanding to others when they didn’t pay me back the money they owed me. I was caring and compassionate when they treated me badly. I found excuses for why I should not be angry at them for their bad treatment of me, even though I had always treated them well.
While I tried to live by this precept of “do unto others as I would have them do unto me,” somehow it didn’t work on the “them doing unto me part.” Finally I realized that I had only gotten half the concept. I noticed that while I treated others well, and they in turn treated me poorly, I realized that I had one set of expectations for me, and another set for them.
Now, I am not saying that I should start treating them the way they treated me, or that I should borrow money from them that I have no intention of paying back, however, I did learn that I should have the same expectations for my friends that I have for myself. I should expect that others treat me well if they are to remain in my life. I do not have to treat others well and then bend over backwards to continue to allow them to treat me badly and not think “something is wrong here,” or as Kathy Hawk says, “this is just not working for me.”
I don’t have a pass to treat others badly, but at the same time, because I do try to treat others as I would that they treated me, it does not follow that I must allow them to abuse me. I would expect myself to act better than they are acting, so why do I think that me acting well and them not acting well is acceptable?
The Silver Rule
So I developed the second part of the “Golden rule” — the Silver Rule — and that is to not allow others to treat you more poorly than you would treat them. Do not allow others to treat you with disrespect and abuse if you would not treat them that way. Expect others who interact with you, who are intimate friends and relationships, to treat you with the same respect, caring and kindness with which you treat them.
I know we will encounter people at work and in our social lives who do not treat anyone well, and sometimes we can’t change that situation. But we do not have to allow ourselves to interact with these people. We can distance ourselves from them, not allow them to treat us poorly. For those people of more “importance” in our lives, our family and our closer friends, we can challenge them on this and say, for example, “John, I loaned you $50 with the expectation that you would pay me back this Friday as you had indicated you would. I expect you to repay me.” If “John” does not repay you, you are not expected to pretend he doesn’t owe you the money. Of course, you would never again loan him money.
My beloved stepfather had a “joke” he used to tell about a man who was always asking for and receiving frequent favors from a friend and never repaying them. One day he asked for a favor and his friend refused and said, “Look at all the things I have done for you in the past and you never repaid any of these things.” The man (obviously a psychopath) replied, “Yeah, okay, but what have you done for me lately?”
If we believe in and practice the “Golden Rule,” I think we should also start to believe in and practice the “Silver Rule,” and expect that others treat us with the same respect that we treat them. If people do not treat us as we treat them, the problem is obviously not ours, but theirs, and they should not be allowed inside our circle of trust and intimacy. The positions within our sacred circle of trust and intimacy must be earned by treating us as we treat them.