There are three keys or rules that will help you find peace and joy within all relationships, including the most important relationship in your life, the one with yourself.
The first key is found in almost every religion and ethical tradition from the beginning of recorded history: the Golden Rule. Simply put, it states, “Treat others the way that you want to be treated.” This is a profound guideline and one that will never lose its value. Halil the Elder, who lived 100 years before Christ, once summarized the entire Torah with the similar phrase, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the whole Torah. The rest is the explanation; go and learn.”
Although this rule is self-explanatory and resonates with the deepest parts of our being, doesn’t it also leave something out? What if the way that we want to be treated is not the way that others want to be treated? What if a man opens a door for a feminist who takes offense at the offering, which to her implies that women are weak and need men to help them? What about the imperialist who invades native cultures and insists that they must be saved from their barbaric ways with modern lifestyles and luxuries? Ignorance can be well intentioned, yet tremendously damaging.
Let us consider the second key, known as the Platinum Rule: “Treat others as they want to be treated.” This requires a new level of communication, empathy, and understanding. It requires not only the intention to treat others well, but also the willingness to take the time to learn how people want to be treated. Many charities waste enormous sums of money and effort giving to communities without spending the time to understand what that community really needs. Disaster reliefs are often flooded with well-intentioned cans of food and bottles of water, yet what actually may be needed are blankets and electricity. Applying the Platinum Rule to our relationships will bring immediate improvement because the only way to know what another person wants is to let go of our own assumptions and projections and to ask.
There is one final key, and it is perhaps the least understood and practiced. The Diamond Rule states: “Treat yourself the way that you want to be treated.” This is a new paradigm of thought. The application of this rule could lead to a mass shift in the perspective of millions of people who are stuck in feelings of victimhood and blame. To take responsibility for our own lives and to take the initiative to treat ourselves as we want to be treated by others is probably not a way of life that you have seen demonstrated by your community.
This idea alone is enough to alarm and distress people who misunderstand it to mean that we should not cooperate or consider each other but just take what we want for ourselves. What it really means is that nobody else knows exactly what you want, and even if they do know, it’s not anyone else’s responsibility to do it for you or to give it to you. Each of us is the creator of our own lives, the thinker of our own thoughts, and the actor of our own actions.
How can we practice this rule and apply it to our lives? If you are wanting others to love you, see that you love yourself first. If you want others to pay attention to you, check if you really give genuine attention to yourself. If you want to have more respect from others, see if you really respect yourself.
With simple introspection, it becomes clear that everything we think we want from others, whether it is love, attention, respect, or trust, is actually a deficit in ourselves that we hope others can fulfill. To the exact amount that we don’t give ourselves enough attention, we will want it from others. To the same degree that we don’t love or respect ourselves, we will crave it from others.
The problem is that the only person who can give us unconditional and unlimited love, respect and attention is ourself. Everyone else will disappoint us, no matter how much we want them to, or even how much they want to satisfy our deep needs, they cannot do it alone. The one person that you really want love and respect from is yourself — your true self. We can see ourselves with the same unconditional love as a parent looking at a newborn child — filled with love and admiration, recognizing our own infinite value, and marveling at the mystery of life. One of life’s greatest realizations is to see ourselves through the eyes of our true self. At this moment there is a life-changing shift in identity described eloquently by George MacDonald: “You do not have a Soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”
The main reason that the Golden Rule isn’t working well is that people treat themselves with criticism, abuse and disrespect, and so they are incapable of giving much else to others. As author and civil rights leader Howard Thurman wrote, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The truth is that “You do unto others as you do unto yourself,” for better or for worse. As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” When we learn to treat ourselves better, we will finally know how to treat others better as well.
All three Rules are important to enjoy balanced and healthy relationships. Of the three, the Diamond Rule is the one that is most within our sphere of personal influence. Spending more time developing this constant relationship with ourselves will build a foundation for all other interactions. From a platform of genuine self-confidence and emotional stability, it will be easier to treat others the way we have been treating ourselves — with love, respect, and dignity.