We all know the Golden Rule (Matthew 7: 12). But sometimes I wonder if we interpret it too literally. I’ve become convinced over the years that what Christ intended was for us to do unto others as they would have us to do. Most of the time, this is equivalent to doing to others as we would have them do unto us. But occasionally it’s different.
For example, there are some of us who love surprises and others who do not. Just because we are among those who love surprises doesn’t mean we should plan a surprise party for a spouse who has told us sincerely and repeatedly that he doesn’t want one, or that he hates having that sort of fuss. Now you may know your spouse well enough to know that he would love such a party deep down despite his protests. But I’m pretty sure mine would not (he says there should no “pretty” about it).
As another example, my husband thinks the “heel” of the bread is an inferior slice, and so he avoids it if making me a sandwich. In truth I prefer that slice, but I know he’s doing me an intended kindness by avoiding it. When my husband is ill, he likes to go to bed and be left alone. I like to have someone look after me when I’m sick, but that was harder initially for him to understand since he would not. To some extent, we become set in our ways as we grow older. But, with the Lord’s help and a lot of will and work, we can change and improve in our other-centeredness as we age.
If you prefer to have lots of friends about you to commemorate important occasions while your loved one prefers only the immediate family, you may want to refrain from inviting “extras” when it’s his or her celebration. If you prefer to receive gift cards for Christmas but your sister prefers gaily wrapped packages, you probably shouldn’t give her a gift card. If you prefer board games but your husband calls them “boring” games as mine does, it may not be wise to assume he’s really itching for a game of scrabble.
If no one but you can make your coffee or tea quite right, keep in mind that others might enjoy being waited on occasionally (even if there’s slightly too much or too little cream).
A lot of these examples are pretty trivial, but trying to become familiar with the preferences of your loved ones can help make you a better friend and family member. After all, isn’t that what you would have them do unto you?