I think it’s safe to say that most of us have heard this saying at some point in our lives:
“Treat others how you want them to treat you.”
I think that is a great principal, and I’m fine with having adapted it into a very mildly more digestible phrasing than the original; “Love thy neighbor as thyself” – God (The Bible, Mark 12:31)
It embodies an amazing amount of ideologies and adjectives into a single, tiny sentence.
Treat others with respect.
Treat others with charity.
Treat others with kindness.
Treat others with appreciation.
Speak encouraging words to others.
Give others the benefit of the doubt.
Think of others with a forgiving heart.
What I -don’t- think this phrase means, is to literally ‘do’ unto others as you would yourself.
Look, here’s what I’m trying to say:
The actions that you appreciate are not necessarily the actions that someone else will appreciate.
In the form of a relationship this idea has been made clearer to me than from any other medium.
So often I find myself treating Samantha (my fiance) the way that I would appreciate being treated.
I don’t mean ‘with respect and love’, I mean the way that I phrase my words, the temperature I set the thermostat to, or the number of times per day I say “I love you.”
This is not gracious love, it is actually inherently selfish.
I am treating her, another person who is not me and does not think or act or live or grow or nurture or love or laugh or talk or sleep or eat or work or EXIST like me, with the thoughts, actions, words, and works that -I- would appreciate.
That doesn’t even make sense.
That’s like offering a car a sandwich.
Cars don’t eat sandwiches.
I love Mark 12:31; however, I do wish someone had told me that following the command meant that I had to stop and think about how the other person understands love and try to speak to them in their language.
I am not saying that it’s possible to always get this right, and I admit that the best understanding you might ever have of how to treat people has to at least begin with knowing how you want them to treat you, but I am saying that it’s our responsibility to grow in this.
I for one am glad to understand this principal just a little bit better, and maybe now that I do I will be able to be a little less terrible at following that second-greatest-of-all commandment.