“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is also known as the "Golden Rule”.
The actual quote from the Bible is from Luke 6:31, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
Simply put, this phrase means to treat others the way we want them to treat us. It is very easy to quote this to someone who is doing something we don’t like, but when it comes to actually living this advice, well, that’s a different story.
This is not to be confused with, "Do unto others as others have done unto you," or worse, "Do unto others before others do unto you."
Lots of times we justify our actions by saying we are simply reacting to someone else’s rude or hostile treatment toward us. However, if we use that as an excuse for our behavior, we are merely continuing the cycle of hostility and defeating the entire purpose.
Understanding and living this principle is even more important as a parent. Our children basically start life as living copies of ourselves. They mimic things we do or say and become our own personal ‘pocket consciences’, often pointing out everything we do wrong: “Dad, mom says you aren’t supposed to drive through red lights,” or, “Dad, you said we aren’t supposed to use that word.”
They also watch and learn while we are driving. When someone cuts us off and we elect to respond with an obscene gesture or use some of our more colorful words, our children pick that up. I can almost guarantee they will use it at the worst possible time.
And it may be that the person didn’t even mean to cut us off; perhaps they just didn’t see you, yet your immediate response was one of hostility. To be living the Golden Rule, a better response would have been just smiling, winking at our children and remarking that they must be in a hurry.
In today’s world, it is often difficult (translated: almost impossible) to live by this tenet, which, ironically, makes it all the more imperative that we do so, especially if we are a parent.
One of the big things that we often do and don’t realize the impact it has on our children is coming home from work and speaking negatively about our co-workers or clients. We wouldn’t want someone to go home to their family and start bad-mouthing us to their children, so we need to make sure we don’t do that either.
On the practical side of this, we really do live in a small world. What if the person we were speaking badly about is the parent of our child’s best friend? Remember, our children absorbs everything we do and say, and what’s more, because it came from us, they believe it. So when they go to school the next day and call their friend’s dad an idiot, expect a not-so-nice phone call.
I am far from perfect at following this advice. I have reacted badly to situations and I have seen the effects my reactions have had on my children.
And the worst part about it is, once it happens, we cannot take it back. We can’t revisit decisions we have made and take time to think them through and change them, but we can learn from our mistakes.
Next time something happens and our immediate thought is to react negatively, stop and think how we would want our children to react if they were in our situation. Stop and think. That is the key.
And once we have stopped and thought about it, try to follow my "Platinum Rule": Do unto others as you would have others do unto your children.
Eric is the father of three and recently became a grandfather.