The Golden Rule

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s pretty simple. Don’t be mean to other people, lest they be mean to you. Call it instant karma, lovingkindness, whatever, pretty much every religion and ethical philosophy has a cognate. Don’t do something you wouldn’t want someone else to do to you.

For some reason, the focus is always on the doing unto others– what about you? Do you do unto yourself as you would do unto others? Or are you mean to yourself, unkind, ungenerous? So turn it around, and try the Golden Rule in reverse– do unto yourself as would do unto others. It becomes a very different proposition, doesn’t it?

The great gurus and buddhas and teachers all tell us that before we can love the whole world, we must love ourselves. That’s hard. We all have self-doubt, self-hatred, self-criticism. We don’t treat ourselves as we would treat our best friend, our most beloved, our children. We don’t forgive our own thoughtlessness and flakiness, our self-absorption during good times and bad. We don’t encourage ourselves when embarking on new adventures. We don’t try to make our criticism constructive, and we don’t close our lips on words that might hurt, regardless of their intent. Instead, we’re just plain mean– we interrupt ourselves mid-thought, put down our hopes and dreams. We tell ourselves we look fat, and ugly, and don’t look for the things that make us attractive to the people who love us. We don’t listen to our explanations when we discover we’ve been behaving badly– we are unwilling to try to understand, and we never forgive. We don’t love ourselves. And while we wouldn’t put up with someone treating our friend, our child, our beloved this way, somehow it’s still acceptable to turn it inward.

“But they don’t know who I really am! I just hide it really well.” My friend– you are not an Oscar-caliber actor, or you’d have a contract by now. Your friends see and know your flaws, and they love you in spite of them, because of them, any way around them. Why do you distrust your friends’ opinions about your worthiness, when you rely on them for everything else? You seek and cherish their advice on doctors, on recipes, on what to do when money’s tight. Why, now, do you do them the disservice of saying they are wrong to believe you are worthy of love?

Try looking at yourself as you would look at your friend, especially if someone else were to attack your friend’s character. How would you respond, but to leap to her defense? Wouldn’t you lay down your heart to help your beloved? Wouldn’t you throw yourself in front of a bus to save your child?

Why should you do any less for you, your own tender, precious self?


20 thoughts on “The Golden Rule

  1. bipolarbear

    I know I have SERIOUS self-esteem issues, stemming from when I was thirteen, fourteen. Maybe it’s finally time to soothe myself.

  2. poet with a day job

    BLC – this is my favorite entry of yours you have ever written. You have said so well the life lesson I have to learn. I am way hard on myself. Unrelenting. Thanks for reminding me to be as nice to me as I am to my pals.

  3. alejna

    This is so wonderful. I totally agree. Though, not too surprisingly, I’ve thought about this more with respect to other people I care about, rather than about myself. But it’s something I’ve been working on over the years. The not beating myself up bit. I can honestly say that I’m much kinder to myself now than I was at 18. And that’s a good thing.

  4. mike golch

    we all try to do the best we can with the hand that was dealt to us.sickness,mental health issues we just have to navagate each and every the best way we know how to.
    I have outlined on my site all trials that I have been put thru and the great highlights of my life as well. There are days that I just try to get thru the next 5 minuits.What choise do I have the other posibility is not an option.

  5. Emily

    I treat myself like crap, but that’s med school for you. I try to be good to myself as much as possible within that framework, but the framework itself STINKS.

  6. Pingback: Intense False Spring « Poet With a Day Job

  7. goldenruleradical

    What a great article. I have Google set to let me know when it finds comments on the Golden Rule and this is the reason.

    I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read your thoughts. You’re absolutely right. So many times we forget that there is an inescapable element of mutuality in the Golden Rule. You point it out eloquently.

    If you have an opportunity, drop by my blog at I’d very much like to hear any comments you might have.

  8. Mariposa

    Oh…thanks for posting this! And right, we have to take care of ourselved…be kind to ourselves and love ourselves…as the saying goes –

    We must be lenient with our own soul in our weaknesses and imperfections, and put up with our own failings in the same way we put up with those of others. But must not become idle and must encourage ourselves to be better…


  9. MamaBird

    Tx, perfect timing on this one — I have been really focusing on the need for self improvement lately and maybe I just need to relax and nurture myself a little bit. I also really like your To Do List for Life which I just noticed. I might have to make one for myself!

  10. Angelina

    I try to ask myself this every time I start to pick myself apart or treat myself in a shabby way. It helps to check my self-meanness at the door.

    Such a good post!


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