I believe in the Golden Rule. For this essay, I want to address a few details as a result of applying this rule. These are my personal guiding principles when it comes to my own behavior:
- Do unto others only what I would do unto my self.
- Actively Love Unconditionally: Choose to pay attention to and engage with people outside of my self.
- Place the support and love of family first. Family: Partner, children, all parents, and all siblings and their children as well, at a minimum.
- Be actively and consistently honest through time.
- Be respectful and kind.
I constantly fail at #1 (and 2 through 5). Everyone does. To be alive means trying anyway.
How does this affect how I treat my partner? It means I choose to pay attention to the details of their life, their words and expressed thoughts, what makes them happy, what hurts them, or even what makes them anxious or distracted from that which makes them happy. I want to support them in the ways they feel best and also how I feel is best, because self-aware entities cannot avoid such thoughts. I also want them to thrive in the ways that they define thriving.
For me to thrive, I must make choices which enable those I love to:
- Pursue love on their own terms.
- Guarantee those they love thrive at least as well as my own self.
- Demonstrate love of family first.
- Speak and act honestly.
- Actively take actions which are kind in nature.
If I were to prohibit any of those activities, then I would be prohibiting those that I love from living the way that I do, which would be contradictory to my own being. I would be preaching one thing and doing another.
For everyone, this means: They should be supported in their efforts to pay attention to that which they love.
Specifically, for my partner this means I have the following expectations:
- One is free to love anyone they want.
- One is free to act in supporting ways to others.
- I expect a demonstration of placing love of family first.
- I expect honesty.
- I expect actively taking actions which are kind in nature.
These are not unconditional. These are the conditions. And, if one considers the act of love as a choice, which I do, it means that I can actively choose to ignore that which I love in order to not create more love and attention, which could be damaged and lost later should the person I love betray my expectations.
Make no mistake, I have these expectations. I cannot avoid them because I’m an actively thinking creature that uses mental models of the future to determine (or so I like to think) my own actions. If I’m constantly betrayed, I will choose to pay attention to other people who generate less pain and misery in my own life. Otherwise, I would be hurting myself, slowly destroying my own ability to not only support myself (due to depression or anguish) but my family and those I love as well.
What does it mean to love someone unconditionally? To me, it means having the confidence in my self to ignore the psychological impact created by the changes and behavior of the person whom I love, on my own identity. Shorter: I love them no matter what they do to me. And by to me, it could mean that I’ve misperceived the other’s actions or intent.
The most common argument against I’ve heard about the Golden Rule: Sometimes we don’t know what is best for the other person, so this is a bad rule.
My response: All rules fail in that scenario, and no other rule performs as well when faced with not knowing what is best for the other person. Also, this argument also contains an element of potential confusion: Sometimes it’s assumed that one is always going to do something to the other person because of the presence of the words do unto others. Let’s not forget the word only which follows just after others. This means one can choose to do nothing at all. Choosing to not think about the other person is also an option. Choosing that option is called ignoring.
I suspect that conditions will always apply because we are biological creatures which use mental models to mathematically represent the Universe, and these models will inevitably reveal and project fundamental contradictions in our perception–of everything.
Contradictions in our understanding of one another present themselves constantly. We expect one behavior, and yet another behavior takes place, resulting in anxiety, doubt, and fear. These are powerful emotions, and the lizard parts of our primate brains impose powerful forces our physical bodies will not ignore, even if we want them to. They will react to inconsistencies in the Universe that cannot be ignored, even if they are imagined.
And, if one were to mathematically represent love, what would that look like? My mental musings led me to consider the following context, one that I’ve mentioned before. As a poem:
We love what we pay attention to.
We pay attention to what we love.
I like this representation because it is two-way: It says that attention, if identified, happens when one loves. If one’s attention could be examined, one could examine the love that one holds.
The hard part starts when one discovers that what is being paid attention to fundamentally breaks all of the rules. Like paying attention to work or things instead of partner and family. Constantly engaging in selfish activities, self-destructive behavior like drug and alcohol abuse, infidelity, absence, and deception will utterly destroy relationships. My own have failed because of these.
Want to destroy your marriage? Work day and night. On anything. You could be working on a brilliant new Bible you think will save all of mankind, and if you pay attention to it instead of the people in your life, those people will go away or fail to thrive, which is a normal thing for them to do. They will be forced, by you, to make a choice of living without you or attempting to thrive in a world where you are actively keeping them from thriving.
Want to alienate your kids? Talk to them about work all the time, miss daily events in their lives, and just simply pay attention to other things. It will happen naturally. I suggest just listening for while. You’d be surprised what kids say after a few days of just being around them without saying anything. If they trust you, they will share their lives with you.
Want to fundamentally damage your partner? Engage in infidelity, dishonesty, absence, or material obsessions. Routinely choosing to act in ways that cause anxiety, stress, or emotional pain is hurtful. Do not be surprised if they turn their attention to other things and other people.