I like the “Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. And I do try to do unto others as I would have others to do for me. But, boy oh boy can it ever backfire if you’re too specific about it. In most cases, it seems to be better to think big-picture and not get too specific when doing unto others. And a dose of curiosity helps, too.
Doing unto Others as a Child
I remember being a little kid on the playground. Maybe 8 years old. One of my classmates – let’s call him Miles – fell off the jungle gym. His unlaced shoe fell off his foot. In response, I grabbed his shoe and started to try to put it on.Well, from the way another boy – let’s call him Bart – reacted, you’d think I was trying to amputate Miles’ leg. Bart yelled something like, “You can’t just put the shoe back on! What if his foot is broken!”
Now, being 8, I had definitely not thought of that. Nor, will I add, did I really have any reason to. However, I do have to admit that Bart’s first-responder-thinking was pretty sophisticated for an 8 year old. Bart was, shall we say, more worldly than your’s truly. Case in point: he had a walkman and a Run DMC tape on which they said swear words.
Back to the Golden Rule
You might say that both Bart and I were practicing the Golden Rule – towards shoeless Miles, anyhow. For my part, I would’ve wanted someone to help me get my shoe back if I were in that situation. Therefore, I tried to get Miles’ shoe back on his foot. My thinking, at age 8, was kind of like “eye-for-an-eye”, but helpful rather than vengeful.
Bart, on the other hand, was thinking about the bigger picture. Because of that, he would’ve wanted someone to make sure they weren’t worsening the situation before trying to help him. Therefore, he didn’t want me to rush into action, because he worried about putting a shoe on a potentially broken foot.
Both responses make sense, in their own way. Both clearly show that we were doing what we would have – within our limited wisdom – wanted done unto us.But, ultimately, I think we can all agree that it’s not so much about doing the specific thing that you would want done unto you, but rather to generally be curious, compassionate, and kind. Stopping to ask Miles if he’d like a hand with his shoe might have been a better course of action.
Ask before Helping
These days if I saw someone who might need my help, I’d likely ask if they wanted my help before giving it. I do my best to be curious, compassionate, and kind and to help folks when I can.And, beyond that, I try to never denigrate or belittle anyone who, in their own way, thinks they are being helpful.
It’s the least I can do for my inner-child: Do unto others, but, maybe ask first.
Lindsey Jay Walsh, MMFT
Photo: Aaron Burden on Unsplash