New Year’s Resolutions! Are they good? Bad? Inspiring? Doomed? I can’t really get worked up about it.
This year I’m feeling a call to go back to basics, to a concept that works for most all faiths (Merry Festivus!) and cultures (well, at least the ones you’d want to live in) and at any time. I hope you like it a much as I do. Here it is:
Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Okay, that might not be the sexiest blog topic ever. I am sorely tempted to punctuate it with a Jesse Pinkman/Breaking Bad-style exclamation for emphasis and sass, but I’m staying classy and letting it stand on its own.
It should do just fine by itself as it is one of the oldest concepts known to man, and one that is found in every ethical religion (so sayeth Wikipedia). Do you need me to tell you about it? No you do not. You covered this in Kindergarten.
I have a nifty point to make about it though, so hang on…
Before you go doing unto others, I find it helpful to:
1) Ponder how you like to be done unto. Which is to say, figure out how you like to be treated.
2) Treat yourself that way!
That’s the down-deep medicine for what ails you and what might, by extension, ail those who live and work with you.
This is important, so I’m going to break it down some more.
How do most folks like to be treated?
- They like to be heard, seen, accepted and loved for who they really are, faults and all.
- They like to feel safe and comfortable.
- They like to be appreciated for their efforts, encouraged and celebrated for their accomplishments.
- They like to be comforted and consoled when suffering loss or disappointment.
- They like to be entertained with humor, beauty, romance and thrills.
- They like to be laughed with, but not so much at.
- They like to feel special, chosen and included.
That’s a starter sampler. You might have some more specific preferences. This would be an excellent time to list them.
Now, the smart Buddhists, (like the monk we took home this summer, pictured above, whom we call Little Rurik, in honor of my esteemed father-in-law, pictured below.)
But I digress.
The smart Buddhists who practice “loving kindness” meditation know that the way to cultivate compassion for others is to direct it towards yourself first. They’ll dedicate long stretches of time training their minds and hearts to feel at home in wishes of personal goodwill like these:
May I be well.
May I be happy.
May I be free from suffering.
May I feel safe.
May I feel strong.
May my life unfold with ease.
Then, eventually, when they’re good and ready, they extend the same good wishes to friends and family, to acquaintances, to people they think are jerks, and to all beings everywhere.
This is how I recommend working with the Golden Rule. Go down the checklist, yours or mine, and see if you treat yourself the way you like to be treated. Get that critical inner voice on board. (Critical inner voices are so five years ago!) Don’t skimp on kindness, understanding, or humor. Be generous.
What other people experience when they’re with you has more to do with how you treat yourself, way down inside, than with the way you think you’re treating them, on the surface.
If you want to join me in this barely perceptible, diet-and-exercise-free resolution for 2014, here’s the plan:
Get as clear and honest and kind* as you can at your core, then go out there and do unto others just exactly as you do unto yourself, and would have them do, until you’re done.
Happy New Year.
* This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect and sweet all the time. That’s ridiculous. Hilarious! It just means you have to give yourself and others some slack when grumpiness, saltiness and other imperfections strike. See? Two way street!