We all know the Golden Rule, but do you know the Platinum Rule?
Golden is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Platinum is: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
My brother told me the other day he had left his briefcase in a London taxi—with his passport in the case. He never got it back. That’s a clear case of the Iron Rule: whoever stole John’s briefcase was not interested in practicing the Golden version.
I think of the Golden Rule as covering basic human relationships—with people we don’t really know. If you’re in line at the supermarket with your cart overflowing and a woman, in a clear hurry, gets behind you carrying one box of Huggies, you’re golden if you say, “You go ahead of me.”
But the Golden Rule doesn’t always work with the people we know well, and certainly not with spouses and children or families of origin. There the relationships are far more fraught. The people we “love” are, unfortunately, the people we most need to control. They are also the people we most often use (in the name of “love”) to fulfill our own unmet needs. Usually that need is subtle; we’re not even consciously aware of it. The poor guy who gives his wife a negligee as a Valentine’s Day gift is being truly golden: he’s giving her what he would like. That’s pretty glaring. But Harville Hendrix tells a story in one of his books that illustrates a slightly subtler version.
A man was turning 40 and his wife, who loved him deeply, wanted to give him the best 40th bash ever. She booked a hotel ballroom, hired a jazz combo and invited 400 of their friends to come for the party (but to keep it a secret). She managed to pull off the whole affair. It was a smashing success. Loads of people came and danced till midnight. When it was all over, the man and his wife went home, kicked back and reviewed the glowing evening. He thanked her for all the work that went into such a gala.
“I will always appreciate it.” But then he added, “I need to say one more thing to you. You are the one who has always loved big parties. You have always known that I was the person who liked small gatherings of people, quiet enough so that we could exchange ideas.” He paused a moment. “The party tonight was wonderful, but it was really your kind of party and not mine.”
The woman had perfectly lived the Golden Rule. She had given him what she herself would have wanted. The Platinum Rule asks us to be highly aware of our own needs, and how that affects the way we “love” others. Our blindness, our capacity for self-deception is so great. Platinum love is able to sense the heart of the other, able to hear the deep yearnings and hopes of someone else. Platinum love—for me, at least—is able to bless, encourage and support the other’s small preferences and great aspirations, even when we don’t agree with—and may not frankly approve of—them. That’s love at the Platinum level.