The Golden Rule, Platinum Rule, and Titanium Rule — navigating the best way to treat others

I’ve been thinking recently about the difference between the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule.

“Treat others as you would want to be treated” is a pretty good start. “Treat others as they want to be treated” is even more harmonious, because it acknowledges that not everyone wants to be treated the same way. It encourages curiosity about others. Rather than assume that they are the same as us, we have to make observations and ask questions if we want to treat them the way they want to be treated.

Of course, there is also enabling, and idiot compassion. Sometimes the way people want to be treated is harmful to their health, or keeps them trapped in immaturity. I’m reminded of a homeless man in Portland who died after the newspaper ran an article on him. So many people donated so much money to him out of compassion and caring, he overdosed, I believe on alcohol. So maybe there’s a Titanium Rule: “Treat others as it is in the highest and best good to treat them.”

It would be pretty arrogant to think I know what is someone else’s highest and best good. Sometimes it seems obvious — don’t give an addict their drug of choice, for example. Even then, though, I can imagine exceptions. Maybe they are a functional addict self-medicating in a way that is less harmful to them than feeling the judgment and isolation of my opinion would be.

Perhaps the best guide is to treat others as it is in my highest and best good to treat them. It is in my highest and best good to treat people with kindness, with forgiveness, and with compassion. If they are attacking me in their toxicity, I lovingly withdraw myself away from them, which means I am not feeding their negative behavior with any energy or attention, which is good for them as well as for me. It would be presumptuous of me to impose my idea of what I think someone’s highest and best good is onto them, whereas it is totally healthy for me to always be striving to understand and achieve my highest and best good.

I guess this rule wouldn’t work very well for people who think their highest and best good is to take as much energy as possible from others for their own benefit. People like that are so unwise, though, they’re probably not good at any of the precious metal rules.

I recently read an article that suggested that the only way to achieve lasting higher levels of happiness is to help others. Not everybody appreciates the same kind of help, though. I can think of at least two other women besides myself who don’t appreciate it when people try to help us carry things we are strong enough to carry on our own. Are those people trying to help us because they are following the Golden Rule, and they would want help carrying that thing? Perhaps. Are they trying to help us because they are following the Platinum Rule, and think that we would want help? Probably. They just don’t know us well enough to know they are doing the opposite.

I often feel annoyed that someone is doing the opposite of what I would like, and yet I know their intention is good, so I do my best to either gracefully decline their help or, sometimes, gracefully accept it. The latter most often happens when someone comes up and grabs at the thing I am lifting without asking if I want help. I am attempting to follow the Platinum Rule, to accept their help in the spirit in which it was offered. Perhaps one of the other precious metal rules would be better to follow — to let that person know as kindly as possible that their help isn’t help. That honors my own truth as well as theirs, which must be a higher and better good than only honoring one truth, and I would want to know it if my attempt to help someone wasn’t really help!

This whole relating to other people is so complicated, I guess it can’t be summed up neatly into one rule. I think the Titanium Rule comes the closest, and yet it’s pretty empty of content, in that the highest and best good is something I can spend my whole life discovering and defining, and which will be different in different situations, rather than some concrete thing that never changes. I guess remembering that fluidity and perceptiveness are important keys to correct action is one important step.

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