The Golden Rule
|(Gold panning, none found)
(In the aftermath of a massive fight between the children over a toy Army Jeep)
Me: Let's talk about the Golden Rule here. Have I told you about the Golden Rule? (We've discussed the principle but wasn't sure if I'd called it that).
7 yo: Is that a rule that President Biden made?
Me: (Laughing) No...
7 yo: Okay, well then which president made that one?
Me: Well, it's not a rule quite like that. It's more of an idea that comes from the Bible.
7 yo: So it's a rule that's in the Bible?
Me: Ah, well not exactly, I mean, it's not actually called that in the Bible.
7 yo: Well how did it get to be a rule then?
Me: Okay let's just talk about what it is because I am not sure how it got named. The Golden Rule is that we treat others the way we want to be treated.
7 yo: Oh.
Me: I mean, you kids know that, right?
7 yo: Yeah, we already know that.
The background here is that my geography-loving 7 yo is also quite keen on the US government, presidents, Congress and how laws are made. His question made sense, but the logic also made me laugh. Kids know about rules and they assume someone made them and that the rest of us have to follow them. Nuance comes later.
I'm sure I didn't make it to age 7 without hearing the phrase "The Golden Rule," but for some reason I hadn't called it that. Maybe because it makes me think of that scene in Disney's Aladdin where the nefarious Jafar says, "You've heard of the Golden Rule, haven't you? He who has the gold, makes the rules?" It's sort of hilarious and sort of sadly true.
The other complication is that the Golden Rule, while great, might be one step behind what I've heard called the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would want done to them. I'd heard this before but then recently came across it in a parenting article about how to teach kindness. The article said that you could, for instance, get one child to help you prepare a special snack for your other child who had a hard day, and pick the snack that the child with the hard day would like, not the snack the child helping would want. The Platinum Rule is hard; I mess it up often. I often try to comfort my husband with a lot of words when he as a true introvert would rather have some quiet, for instance. The Platinum Rule requires more insight, deeper empathy and the experience of really knowing another person.
Neither the Gold or Platinum Rules are particularly easy, and I'm not sure if it's helpful to call them rules. Maybe the Gold and Platinum lifestyle? It sounds like elite status levels on an airline. Maybe that's not a bad analogy. You have to fly a lot to reach Gold or Platinum status. You need to practice a lot to live into the Gold and Platinum Rules. They don't just happen to you.
If you do a Google search of the Golden Rule, you'll see all the ways that the belief is shared across religions and traditions. That might be my favorite takeaway. There's something sacred about treating others the way we want to be treated. This belief can bind us across continents and cultures, despite political divides and partisanship. To me it suggests something fundamentally true about being human: the practice of kindness to the other, no matter who is making the rules.