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Moving Towards Empathy- Why the "Golden Rule" Got It All Wrong

“Stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold.”

In S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, this quintessential quote has come to define an entire generation of middle-school literature classes. However, instead of staying gold, what if Johnny had asked Ponyboy to stay… platinum?

Parents, teachers, pastors, and more have preached and spread the importance of caring for others first by their actions. However, in an ironic twist, one of the most widespread colloquialisms for practicing good behavior and treating others with respect doesn’t focus on others—it focuses on you. Even if educators and parents haven’t meant to instill a me-first mindset into the minds of youths across the globe, this has occurred through the teaching known as The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. In following this principle, you become the center of it all. The other person, their feelings, their emotions, their worldview, it all ceases to exist and is replaced with your entire universe. Even though the intentions of this teaching come from a hopeful assumption (after all, we really DO want the best for ourselves, right?), it is one that is ultimately self-centric.

Instead of dwelling on ourselves, let’s flip the script, flip the rule on its head. Instead of thinking about ourselves, our feelings, our emotions, and our worldview first, let’s take some time to put our owns views on the back burner and think of The Platinum Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated. In doing so, we are putting the needs of others ahead of our own, and rather thinking selfishly, we begin to think empathically. Although this seems easy enough to do in practice, rarely is anything as easy as it seems. If you think it’s that easy, why not try it out for yourself? Spend an entire day consciously and purposefully living The Platinum Rule, and if you do well putting yourself in the shoes of others before doing or saying something? Try it again the next day, and the next day, and the day after that. And if you struggle? Try it again the next day, and the next day, and the day after that.

No one says that self-growth is easy, but no matter what, it takes dedication. And if you think this is pointless or that you already do a great job at following The Platinum Rule? Place yourself in the shoes of another and ask that question again.

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