Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Misapplication of the Golden Rule

Image by Ivan Prole

Last year, I had a rude awakening about celebrating people and events. It came not long after planning a week full of thoughtful festivities for my boyfriend’s birthday.

I sent him a verse from seven songs via email, verses that had been painstakingly handpicked for their significance and formatted to read like poetry.

Subject Line: Kissing You
I can stand a thousand trials
the strong
will never fall.
but watching stars without you,
my soul cries.

I then presented him with a CD of the songs in their entirety (purchased from iTunes), each sung by a female artist in first person (you know, as if I was singing it myself). For some of the songs, like “You are the Sunshine of My Life,” I scoured the universe to locate a suitable female version. I bought three or four different Hoops and Yoyo talking birthday cards and hid them for him to find throughout the week. Procured tickets to The Color Purple. And slow cooked ribs all afternoon for his birthday dinner.

Turns out the guy was more interested in Hoops and YoYo and ribs than my heartfelt CD and an award-winning Broadway musical. I was privately perturbed that my swoon-worthy efforts had been in vain.

It wasn’t until some time later that I realized the issue was mine, not his. The lesson came during a sermon in which my minister said, “You have to love people the way they want to be loved, not the way you want to be loved.”


I had planned a poetic, emotional, flowery birthday fest---ideal for me.

We tend to apply the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” in areas we shouldn’t, such as gift giving. We say, “I would like this, so my friend/Mom/Dad/sister/brother would like this.” Or we think because something is expensive, exclusive, or highly regarded that anyone would appreciate it. Believe it or not, there are plenty of folks out there that can afford a Mercedes but prefer a Camry.

I'm not a purse woman. Don’t think I’ve owned a bag that cost more than $20. Therefore, a friend that goes overboard buying me a pricey purse would be sorely disappointed to discover I can’t tell the difference between a limited-edition Louis and one of Bobo’s bootlegs.

In other words, it’s possible to go the extra the wrong direction.

It’s not just a lesson for the holidays, but every day. Love people the way they want to be loved. And who knows, you might even save a couple dollars.