The New Rules of Life: How To Live (and Love) with Standards.
Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. If it did, the “terms of conditions” would probably read like this:
“I hereby understand that in agreeing to this life, I will be lied to, screwed over, manipulated, have my sense of self-worth trampled on, and be otherwise humiliated, sometimes by the very people who claim to be my friends. If you agree to these terms and conditions, please tick the box.”
Okay, to be fair, life can be pretty awesome. There are a lot of people who care about you, who love you and who have your best interests at heart. But every life has its challenges. Inevitably, you’re going to meet people who are going to hurt you, whether intentionally or unintentionally. You’re going to meet people who are dishonest or who will screw you over. Bad people exist; it’s unrealistic to pretend otherwise, and it’s also dangerous.
Good people sometimes do bad things, and we can forgive them. But the reality is there are people who don’t deserve forgiveness.
This realisation was disconcerting to me at first. We’re supposed to forgive people, right? We’re told that unconditional love is a spiritual virtue and that if we can’t learn to forgive, it’s because there’s something we haven’t overcome within ourselves.
To love without condition is to love without standards. The reality is that some people simply do not deserve your love.
Forgiveness is Not a Moral Obligation.
I believe that forgiveness is a virtue, but it’s a virtue that requires a sense of proportion to the wrong that was committed. For instance, it may be easier to forgive your partner for eating the last bowl of ice cream than it would be to forgive them for cheating on you. That doesn’t mean that your partner is beyond redemption for cheating on you, but it would take a lot more effort on your partner’s part to win back your trust.
Forgiveness is about re-establishing trust. There’s no golden rule that’s ever going to hold true for every situation. Wisdom is in knowing when to forgive someone and when to cut your losses and move on with your life without them.
Sometimes good people do the wrong thing, and if they recognise the wrongdoing and are willing to re-establish the trust that was broken, then it’s reasonable to forgive them. On the other hand, there are people in the world who do things that are arguably unforgivable. Sexual abuse or physical assault are things you aren’t obligated to forgive, because they may never be able to make up for the damage they’ve caused.
And that’s okay.
Forgiveness isn’t possible unless that person is willing to make up for what they’ve done and re-establish the trust that was broken but moving on with your life and being able to heal those wounds will give you greater peace.
The New Rules of Life.
“When you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately—that is to love people without any standard, to love them regardless of whether they have any value or virtue—you are asked to love nobody.”
– Ayn Rand
To love without standards leaves you over-exposed to being taken advantage of. There are amazing people in this world, and you want to be able to surround yourself with them—the kind of people who not only treat you with respect but also value themselves enough to expect the same respect from you; the kind of people who support and challenge you.
By learning to value yourself more, you’ll learn to stop accepting bad behaviour from certain people, and when you raise that standard for yourself, those people will either change their behaviour or they’ll move on to find someone else with lower standards.
These “rules of life” we’ll discuss are principles to help guide you in forming relationships while coming from a place of self-respect and self-worth. The more you learn to value you, the more you’ll begin to attract relationships that truly matter to you—relationships built on mutual respect and love.
RULE 1: Be Genuine.
“What is the point of being on this earth if all you want is to be liked by everyone else?”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
Birds of a feather flock together, and liars tend to find other liars. It’s harder to lie to someone who is genuine because people who are genuine have a sixth sense for people who aren’t. When you start to project truth out into the world, people who are deceptive start to stick out like a beach ball at a funeral.
This isn’t always the case, of course. Anyone can be deceived given the right circumstances, but you’re less likely to be fooled for long. You’re also less likely to have these kinds of people in your life for long, because genuine people attract other genuine people.
RULE 2: Be Honest With Yourself About What You Want.
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”
Be honest about what you want in life. Do you want to live a quiet life in the country? Awesome. Want to be a successful stockbroker and drive a nice car? Great. Want to be a dancer in your spare time? Fantastic. You only have one life, so why not live it on your terms?
If there are things you really want to experience in life, then at some point you have to stop caring so much about what other people think and start living life on your own terms.
But be honest about what you really want. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking we want something, when what we really want is to impress people so that we can have our self-worth validated by outside opinion. Being honest about what you want in life is about wanting to live by your own standards.
RULE 3: Everyone Deserves Your Respect Until They Prove They Don’t.
“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.”
I treat people with respect, and I always assume most people are good. I’ve developed a good sense for people, and when I meet someone, I want to get to know more about who they are, their story and what they’re about. Sometimes though, my intuition is off and they turn out to be not all that nice.
In life, you’re going to meet some people who are basically children walking around in adult bodies. But on the upside, these people usually show their true colours eventually, which makes it easier for you to know who to filter out of your life.
Everyone deserves your respect until they prove they don’t. Assume most people you meet are good and worthy of your respect. If they do something wrong, give them a chance to correct the mistake. If they don’t try to make up for it, then don’t waste your time on people who aren’t worthy of your respect.
RULE 4: Treat People How They Treat You.
“When people treat you like they don’t care, believe them.”
Someone is about to attack you with a knife. It’s justifiable to defend yourself from harm. Not even the most passive among us would have trouble justifying that. Likewise, dishonest people can cause us harm in other ways, and it’s morally justifiable to defend yourself.
I’m an open and honest person to people who are open and honest to me. If someone lies to me, however, I have no problem lying to them if it means protecting myself.
When someone attempts to manipulate or lie to you, meet them at their own level. You’re allowed to reciprocate their behaviour in order to protect yourself from harm.
But just because someone lies to you once or makes a mistake doesn’t make it okay to lie to them whenever you feel like it. Sometimes people tell white lies for reasons you may not understand. Sometimes people make bad choices that result in consequences they didn’t intend. It’s okay to reciprocate dishonesty if it means protecting yourself from dishonest people, but it’s not justifiable to be dishonest for no reason, or even worse, for personal gain.
RULE 5: Say “I Love You” The Moment it’s Real.
“Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.”
-Ray Stannard Baker
When you love someone, tell them. It may not be reciprocated, and that’s okay. There are no guarantees in life; no matter how strongly you feel about another person, there’s the chance they aren’t going to feel the same way.
Saying “I love you” to someone for the first time can leave you feeling vulnerable, because you’ve exposed a part of yourself to someone without any guarantee that person will feel the same. Your power is in your vulnerability. It’s the ability to take a risk, to put it all on the line for a chance at something greater.
When you love someone, tell them. Own your feelings; be true to yourself. Taking risks is the only way you’ll eventually win, even if you encounter temporary losses along the way. Nothing is ever truly lost by saying “I love you.” If your love isn’t reciprocated, it may feel like you’ve lost something, but what you’ve gained is the possibility of moving on to find someone who feels the same way.
RULE 6: Fill Yourself with Your Own Love. Share What Overflows.
“I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.”
When you can learn to give yourself love, you’ll stop needing to search for love outside of yourself. When you need love from others but you’re unable to give love to yourself, you’ll sacrifice your own needs, wants and goals for theirs. It’s like you’re emptying all of yourself into another person, hoping that they’re going to be the one to fill you back up, and when they can’t, you deplete yourself until you’re constantly running on empty.
What’s more, you also risk letting people into your life who’ll take advantage of your need for their affection. These people are just as unable to give themselves love, so they attach themselves to people who will sacrifice their own self-worth for them.
But when you’re able to fill your own tank by giving yourself love, you’ll be able to choose who you share your love with. The more you love yourself, the less you’ll need to look for it in others.
Learning to give yourself love starts by valuing yourself enough to know that you deserve better than those who would take advantage of you.
In The End…
These ideas are challenging. They are challenging because they go against the narrative we’ve been taught—the one that says we should be kind to everyone, everyone deserves love, and that unconditional love is a virtue to aspire to.
But the real world doesn’t work like that. Not everyone is going to be worthy of your time or your respect. Not everyone deserves your love. But you can choose to live and love with standards. You can choose to share your love with those who deserve it. There are people in this world worthy of your love and respect—people who are compassionate and virtuous.
Those are the people who make it all worth it.