One of the few rules I try to live my life by, and fail every day trying I might add, is the Golden Rule.
I love the simplicity of the Golden Rule, its tendency to make everyone I interact with happier … and its tendency to make me happier as well.
It’s true: the rule of treating others as you would want to be treated in their place will ultimately lead to your own happiness.
Let’s say that you apply the Golden Rule in all of your interactions with other people, and you help your fellow dancers, you treat your family with kindness, you go the extra mile for your teacher, you help a stranger in need.
Now, those actions will undoubtedly be good for the people you help and are kind to … but you’ll also notice a strange thing. People will treat you better too, certainly. Beyond that, though, you will find a growing satisfaction in yourself, a belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person and a trust in yourself.
Those are not small dividends. They are huge. And for that reason — not even considering that our world will be a better place if more people live by this rule — I recommend you make the Golden Rule a focus of your actions, and try to live by it to the extent that you can. I do, and although I’m not perfect and find myself making mistakes, I try.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some practical tips for living the Golden Rule in your daily life:
- Practice empathy. Make it a habit to try to place yourself in the shoes of another person. Any person. Loved ones, fellow dancers, people you meet on the street. Really try to understand, to the extent that you can, what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.
- Practice compassion. Once you can understand another person, and feel what they’re going through, learn to want to end their suffering. And when you can, take even a small action to somehow ease their suffering in some way.
- How would you want to be treated? The Golden Rule doesn’t really mean that you should treat someone else exactly as you’d want them to treat you … it means that you should try to imagine how they want to be treated, and do that. Imagine an interaction with a dancer from a different Irish dance school. You share a common love; Irish dance. So when you put yourself in their shoes (for us as Irish dancers that could be their ghillies), ask yourself how you think they want to be treated. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.
- Be friendly. When in doubt, follow this tip. It’s usually safe to be friendly towards others. Of course, there are times when others just don’t want someone acting friendly towards them, and you should be sensitive to that. You should also be friendly within the bounds of appropriateness. But who doesn’t like to feel welcome and wanted? Especially in the sometimes harsh Irish dance community.
- Be helpful. This is probably one of the greatest weaknesses of our community. Sure, there are many people who go out of their way to be helpful, and I applaud them. But in general there is a tendency to keep to yourself, and to ignore the difficulties of others. Don’t be blind to the troubles of others, especially in dance classes. Ask to help out.
- Be courteous in competition. Another weakness of our community. While I don’t personally compete (no one in our school does), there are few times when I’ve seen Irish dancers as selfish as in a competition. We don’t want to give up the right of way, we cut people off, we back-bite, and give each other stink-eye. Perhaps it’s the isolation of the feis. Most of us certainly don’t act that rude in person. So try to be courteous in competition.
- Listen to others. Another weakness: we all want to talk, but very few of us want to listen. And yet, we all want to be listened to. So take the time to actually listen to another person, rather than just waiting for your turn to talk. It’ll also go a long way to helping you understand others.
- Overcome prejudice. We all have our prejudices, whether it’s based on skin color, attractiveness, height, age, gender, Irish dance school … it’s human nature, I guess. But try to see each person as an individual human being, with different backgrounds and needs and dreams. And try to see the commonalities between you and that person, despite your differences.
- Stop criticism. We all have a tendency to criticize others, whether it’s people we know or people we see on television. However, ask yourself if you would like to be criticized in that person’s situation. The answer is almost always “no”. So hold back your criticism, and instead learn to interact with others in a positive way.
- Don’t control others. It’s also rare that people want to be controlled. Trust me on this one. It sucks. So don’t do it. This is a difficult thing, especially if we are conditioned to control people. But when you get the urge to control, put yourself in that person’s shoes. You would want freedom and autonomy and trust, wouldn’t you? Give that to others then.
- Be a child. The urge to control and criticize is especially strong when we are adults dealing with teaching children. In some cases, it’s necessary, of course: you don’t want the child to hurt herself, for example. But in most cases, it’s not. Put yourself in the shoes of that child. Remember what it was like to be a child yourself, and to be criticized and controlled. You probably didn’t like it. How would you want to be treated if you were that child?
- Send yourself a reminder. Email yourself a daily reminder (or set a notification on your phone) to live your life by the Golden Rule, so you don’t forget. Or give yourself some other reminder throughout the day so that you don’t forget to follow the Golden Rule in all your interactions with others. Perhaps a fake golden ring on your keychain or laced into your hard shoes?
- Post it on your wall or make it your home page. The Golden Rule makes a great mantra, and a great poster.
- Rise above retaliation. We have a tendency to strike back when we’re treated badly. This is natural. Resist that urge. The Golden Rule isn’t about retaliation. It’s about treating others well, in spite of the way they choose to treat you. Does that mean you should be a doormat? No … you have to assert your rights, of course, but you can do so in a way that you still treat others well and don’t strike back just because they treated you badly first.
- Be the change. Gandhi famously told us to be the change we want to see in the world. Well, we often think of that quote as applying to grand changes, such as poverty and racism and violence. Well, sure, it does apply to those things … but it can also apply on a much smaller scale: to all the small interactions between Irish dancers. Do you want dancers to treat each other with more compassion and kindness? Then let it start with you. Even if the Irish dance community doesn’t change, at least you have.
- Notice how it makes you feel. Notice how your actions affect others, especially when you start to treat them with kindness, compassion, respect, trust, love. But also notice the change in yourself. Do you feel better about yourself? Happier? More secure? More willing to trust others, now that you trust yourself? These changes come slowly and in small increments, but if you pay attention, you’ll see them.
To end today’s post, I leave you with this:
“May I gain no victory that harms me or my opponent.
May I reconcile friends who are mad at each other.
May I, insofar as I can, give all necessary
help to my friends and to all who are in need.
May I never fail a friend in trouble.” ~Eusebius of Caesarea