Recently, I’ve had experiences in which I’ve overheard the “Golden Rule” shared: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Once it was on a television show I was watching, then I read it in a fictional book, and most recently I saw it posted as a friend’s Facebook status. I decided after the last encounter to spend some time considering it more deeply.
In doing so, I recalled being shared the “Platinum Rule” during my time in a masters-level student affairs preparation program: “Do unto others as they would want done to them.” I remember feeling confused by why the rule needed to be changed, but pretending to understand it at the time. Since then, it has surfaced a few times and I’ve mostly continued the pretense of understanding it. Admittedly, I knew part of my inability to understand
it was connected to the limited amount of time that I was putting into trying to make sense of it. So as stated above, after reading my friend’s Facebook status, I decided to spend a bit more time with it and I admit that the rule isn’t much clearer now. Yes, I get that it sounds like something we want to say we are a part of in Student Affairs because of our values of inclusivity and social justice. “Let’s not make it about us, let’s make it about others”, has been the general theme and I think I understand what the statement is trying to say about Western society.
However, I don’t think we should be so quick to adopt it. Here are three thoughts I have about why.
First, if the Platinum rule is treating others the way that they want to be treated, considering how people often treat themselves (especially those of us in Student Affairs), I’m concerned. In the field of Student Affairs we talk about balance, but rarely role model it. I often hear stories from fellow colleagues about how stressed they are and how much they require of the staff/student workers they supervise. In this sense, perhaps we need to own that we keep taking from others (our staff, students, and loved ones) because we constantly keep taking from ourselves.
Furthermore, we state that we are going to make time for self-care, but quite often participate in the same activities that our students do: emailing late at night, binging on television when we could be working ahead, eating unhealthy food in order to find the energy to make it through the day, etc.
So, given the Platinum Rule, are we supposed to use this as a guide for how to treat fellow Student Affairs colleagues?
Second, ACPA President Gavin Henning called for us to focus on mental health issues within Student Affairs; not for our students, but for ourselves. It makes sense that greater access to higher education results in a greater percentage of people working in Student Affairs with a mental health issue. So, if a colleague is dealing with personal issues (e.g. low self-image, low self-esteem), would following the Platinum Rule be the best idea? I don’t think we want to contribute to the symptoms of those battling any disease/illness?
Finally, I think that we in Student Affairs often treat others better than we treat ourselves. I’ve witnessed countless professionals rearrange their schedules (myself included!) for students instead of saying, “You do matter to me, and because of that, I want to give you my full attention, can we find a time that fits both our schedules to meet?” In the counseling class I teach each fall, I continually remind students that we can’t help others if we don’t first help ourselves. Somehow this message gets lost when I think about the Platinum Rule. Maybe I am missing something about it, and if so, I would love to hear more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should be erring on the side of pampering ourselves undeservingly, but I do think it might help us to reconsider the Golden Rule for our practice.