The Golden Rule in a Narcissistic Culture

floating johnny jump ups“Margaret, do you think today’s narcissistic culture has lost sight of the Golden Rule?”

Margaret wiped her hands on her pressed apron.  “I’m not sure I know what you mean, dear?  Please explain.”

Gladys hopped down from her perch on a headstone and dusted off the back of her skirt.  “Well, the original meaning of the Golden Rule had something to do with empathizing with our neighbor.  We were encouraged to walk in their shoes, so to speak, and treat them with consideration.  In today’s culture, it appears that the original meaning has been tailored a bit.  Now it’s more like, ‘Be nice to your neighbor, as long as they are like you, and treat them the way you’d like to be treated, with no regard to how they want to be treated.'”

“Perhaps an example would help me understand?  I’m not sure I see what you mean.”

“I’ll try.  As it is now, they judge their neighbor based on how they dress, their car, their house and the school their kids go to.  If they have those things in common, then they’ll decide it’s safe to be considerate.  At the point of deciding their neighbor is worth approaching, they’ll bring the neighbor their favorite pie, regardless of whether their neighbor likes pie.”

“What?  Someone doesn’t like pie?”

 

“Margaret, relax.  It’s a metaphor.  My point is, today’s culture has gotten rather literal in their interpretation of the Golden Rule – treat others the way I’d like to be treated.  I want pie, therefore my neighbor must want pie.  That’s the narcissistic version of the Golden Rule – treat others the way I’d like to be treated.   Maybe you are an extrovert who wants to eat pie with all of your well-dressed neighbors but your new neighbor is an introvert who wants to be left alone, in her pajamas, to eat her cake or potato chips, or whatever she would like.”

 

 

“Cake?  Who prefers cake when there are all these delicious varieties of pie in the world!?”  Margaret fidgets with the pie server trying to decide which flavor to serve.

“Guess what, Margaret!  Some folks don’t like pie or cake.  Gasp!  It’s true.  The point is, real empathy means meeting your neighbor on their terms, not your terms.  Am I going to avoid conversations with Jon because he wears baggy dungarees and rides a board with four wheels, or am I going to attempt to meet him where he is, and try to see things through his eyes?  Should I expect Jon to meet me on my terms?  Could you see him dressed like that in some smoky jazz club from the 1940s sipping a Manhattan?  Of course not.  With empathy, we can connect through our own shared experiences – the ones that make us human.  Once we look beyond our costumes – his baggy pants and my beaded flapper dress – we are able to connect on the stuff that matters.  We both love.  We both learn.  We both experience failures and successes.  I am not going to assume that his successes are any less than mine because he looks different.  Nor am I going to project my experiences on to him, yet that’s what I see today’s culture doing.  They assign their own labels to the experiences of others.”

 

Margaret puts the pie server down on the cloth-covered headstone.  “It sounds like today’s culture needs a gentle reminder – someone needs to tell them that the Golden Rule has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with the other person.”

Gladys laughed, “I think they are going too fast in the wrong direction to see the error of their ways.  Who has time to empathize and connect with the neighbor when there is so much judging and consuming to be done?”

“I don’t think you are referring to consuming pie, are you dear?”

“No, Margaret, I am not referring to pie.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, dear. Would you like a piece of pie, or… er… cake?  I think I have a lovely recipe for German chocolate cake.”

 

 

 

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6 comments

  1. I wonder what Gladys would think about this article…
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamakabani/2014/03/04/here-is-what-you-need-to-know-about-millennials/

    Are Millenials really self-absorbed or just misunderstood?

  2. Z,

    Gladys would say, “Z, thanks for the interesting read. Actually, I find myself more concerned about the Boomers – the folks born before the early 80s. Jon is an example of a millenial who has his act together.”

    Margaret would say, “Zaira, dear, what is a selfie?”

  3. :)
    Love them all.

  4. Hi Jesse,

    I love Gladys’ take on empathy: “meeting your neighbor on their terms.” The older I get the more I realize I have yet to learn!

  5. Lynn,

    Knowing I have so much more to learn is what keeps the journey interesting for me. ;)

  6. Jesse,

    I agree completely!!

    Warm hugs . . .

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