Picture this: children running in circles around you and doors left open every time you turn around. Sliding doors slamming shut, then opening, then slamming shut, just for the fun of it. Early morning screams for cereal by two toddlers. Kids everywhere.
Maile’s mom, sister-in-law, niece and two nephews came to stay with us for about a week. The upside? Our four kids (yes, that makes seven total) were in cousin paradise, playing freeze-tag and flitting through water sprinklers late into the summer nights while the adults played Blockus and drank iced tea and caught up.
The downside? My family lives in a very small house and I am self-employed. We home school. We live very quiet lives.
Throw into the mix the fact that I am a hermit, often times a grouchy hermit, and my graciousness was sorely tested.
I lost my patience. I hid in our bedroom. I utilized faces and expressions that I hadn’t broken out since elementary school. Towards the end of their stay, I remember slapping my laptop together and literally racing out our long lane in The Beast (nearly taking out my poor landlady who crossed in front of me on her four-wheeler).
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Thinking back over the week, I realized I should have behaved better. But how? What should I have done? That’s when the Golden Rule came to mind: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
But in this case, that wouldn’t even have been good enough.
In order for you to understand why I thought the Golden Rule had failed me, you should first know how I want “others to do unto me”: more often than not, I want to be left alone (unless you are my wife or one of my four kids). More often than not, I’d prefer to be given plenty of space, perhaps a quiet room where I can write or read or do anything in silence broken only by Innocence Mission or Over the Rhine.
If I “do unto others as I would have them do unto me,” most people would feel rejected or ignored. So doesn’t that mean the Golden Rule is more like the Golden Option? If I treat other people how I want to be treated, and it makes them unhappy, what kind of a rule is that?
Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Jesus? (said in my best Gary Coleman impression).
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Then, yesterday, as I started thinking about the Golden Rule again, I realized where I was going wrong (you probably had this same realization about 200 words ago): most people have their own little ways that they prefer being treated, but everyone wants to be respected. Everyone wants to be honored. Everyone wants their particular desires to be taken into consideration.
The Golden Rule doesn’t mean I should treat everyone else specifically how I want to be treated – it means respect everyone the way I’d like to be respected.
Then, a painful realization:
What if, instead of my sister-in-law and her kids, I was hosting a complete stranger I automatically respect because of who they are? Would I treat that person differently?
You know who first came to mind? Someone I admire but don’t even know: Rachelle Gardner, the literary agent.
I’ve seen a few of her articles in magazines. I read her blog from time to time. She seems like a nice woman, well-connected in her world, successful. I think she’s got a few kids. I met one of her clients, Rachel Held Evans, who has nothing but great things to say about her.
How differently would I have treated her and her kids if they came to stay with my family? Would I give her a hard time if she didn’t replace the toilet paper roll? Probably not.
Then I thought of Bruce Nuffer, one of the guys over at The House Studio who I’ve gotten to know during the last year or two – if he and his family came to stay with us, would I complain if one of their kids kept opening and closing the back door for no reason?
What if I treated everyone like they were someone “important”?
Would I treat that last commenter on my blog differently if I found out they actually have a huge platform?
Would I treat that last person who followed me on Twitter with more respect if I found out they were a literary agent or an editor at a publishing house?
I hope not.
If you’re feeling especially brave today, you could complete the following sentence in the comments section:
I should start treating ______________ more like _________________.