Some form of the “golden rule” appears in the writings of just about every culture that ever bothered to write stuff down. It usually goes something like “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”, or, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (for a good comparison of the golden rule as expressed by several different societies and/or religions, see the appendix to C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man)
Like most folks, I try to live out this rule everyday, and, like most folks, I only do so with varying degrees of success and failure. And, to digress for a moment, I really do think that “most” folks try to live by the golden rule. After all, it’s the bad things we do that appear as “news”, not the acts of love and kindness. If it were the opposite, we’d see headlines like “Man Takes Neighbor’s Trash To Curb!” or “Friend Borrows Car For Five Minutes; Fills It With Gas!”
But there are some of us who have less problem loving our neighbors than we do loving ourselves. I’m one of those people. Oh, I love myself well enough to feed myself everyday, and all that. I don’t hate myself enough to physically punish myself (if you’ve seen me lately you know I haven’t missed many meals), but on the other hand, when it comes to issues of love, forgiveness, and giving the benefit of the doubt, I treat others way better than I do myself.
Why am I willing to cut others so much slack, yet turn around and excoriate myself for the simplest of mistakes? Why am I willing to see the good in others as my default setting, but always think the worst of myself and my motives? Why do I rarely if ever look back on wrongs done to me, while re-living certain of my mistakes and sins on an almost daily basis?
Maybe because I know myself better than I know others, but, maybe, it’s because while I was taught to love others, I never figured out what it means to love one’s self. It has to be more than just making sure I have food, shelter, and clothing. That’s instinctual. A dog can do that (well, except the clothing part; only humans would think to put a sweater on a dog, but you know what I mean).
But surely at some point I’m going to have to learn that all of the things I’m willing to do for others (albeit imperfectly), I should be willing to do for myself now and then. Or, to borrow a line from Matt Groening, someday I’ll stop living by the credo “I won’t stop torturing myself until I discover the source of my pain”.
If I made New Year resolutions, this would be one. But, I don’t, so I’ll just have to grow into it somehow over time, as I grow old(er) and perhaps wise(no er).