The other day, I saw a quote on Facebook from an unknown author that said, “No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all.” I found myself nodding in complete agreement. I think it’s a message we forget all too often, especially in our celebrity-worshiping, superiority-complex-having society. Read on to learn why it really is the only true measure of character. Then, check out a few tips that will help you become a better person overall.
How You Treat People is the Only Thing That Matters
The media taught us from a very early age that beauty is measured by what’s on the outside, that those with money deserve power, that power demands respect, and that education is synonymous with intelligence.
Worst of all, we’re taught that those with any or all of the above are somehow better than us. That their lives matter more. That our entire worth revolves around the size of our bank account, brains, or -for us women at least- something else that starts with a b. Let me tell you, that’s absolute bunk (and now I’ll quit it with the alliteration, I promise).
There is one thing- and one thing alone- that determines the type of person you truly are: how you treat people. All people. That starts by realizing that we’re all equal.
I’m not better than you, and you’re not better than me
We need to let go of this idea that one person is somehow better than another just because they make more money, went to school longer, dress better, have a smaller waist or a more viral Instagram account. None of those things make you better than me or me better than you.
Let me tell you, money can’t buy a personality or brains. Four years of Ds can still earn you a degree. Outer beauty fades. Waistlines expand. In other words, none of those things are real and none of them tell you a single thing about a person’s true nature. Let’s play a little “imagine if” game that’ll really help drive the message home that how you treat people is truly the only thing that matters.
First, I want you to imagine someone that has a lot of money, power, and/or fame, but that treats people like absolute crud. Between the media and his (or her) fans, we hear that this person deserves respect, that he is important, someone worth listening to and admiring. After all, he’s rich! He’s famous! He’s powerful!
Now, imagine that person without the money. Without the fame, the power, the fanbase. Would you want to know him? Be friends with him? Be associated with him in any way? Would you look at that person and still think that he is better than you? That his life has more value, somehow?
When you strip away the size of your bank account, following, or IQ, you’re left with the true measure of your worth- the size of your heart (metaphorically speaking, of course). If you ask me, I think a big heart beats a big bank account or brains any day!
How to be a better person overall
The very fact that you’re looking for some guidance to change how you treat people means you’re heading in the right direction. We’re all guilty of occasionally acting superior, of being a little smug or arrogant. Admitting that every last one of us has room for improvement is the first step to becoming a better person. The following tips will help keep you on that right path.
Follow the Golden Rule
Contrary to popular believe, the Golden Rule isn’t just a biblical concept, it’s a cornerstone in many religions and philosophies worldwide. The rule is beautiful in its simplicity- treat others the way you want to be treated. I’d actually change it to “Treat others the way you want your child to be treated.” We tend to let others treat us badly, but roar into action like the mama and papa bears that we are when our kids are involved.
Think before you speak (or type)
Imagine how much nicer the world would be if everyone did a little more thinking before speaking (or hitting the submit button on social media). Before opening your mouth or flexing those typing fingers, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my motive? Am I saying it to hurt someone? To insult them or get a rise out of them?
- Would I say this to someone I love?
- How would I feel if someone said this to me? To my mom? My children?
- Would I say this face-to-face (for social media posts)?
- How would I feel if these were my final words and the only thing people remembered about me?
Now, I’m not saying you should go through life censoring your every thought. Sometimes, hard things need to be said. However, nine times out of then, there’s a more diplomatic and kinder way to say them. Remember those wise words from our grandparents– if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!
Share with care
Memes are both one of the greatest and most horrific social media inventions of our time. On the one hand, a cute & relatable meme can totally brighten our day. Sassy cats, incredulous dogs, and toddlers with dubious expressions? Pure, innocent joy. On the other hand, way too many memes are little more than passive-aggressive ways to insult others. While it’s cruel to actively seek to hurt others period, those memes often reach unintended targets.
Let me tell you a story to demonstrate. I have a friend who is struggling financially. She’s a single mom taking care of both her child and her own parent. She works very hard yet never quite manages to make ends meet. She uses food stamps because feeding her family is more important than her pride.
An uncle that she adores (and thought adored her) often shares insulting memes about people on food stamps. Every time she sees them on his Facebook wall, her heart breaks. She cries, because now she knows exactly how her favorite uncle really feels about “people like her,” and it hurts. A lot.
So, unless you actively want to cause very real people very real pain (in which case, I can’t help you), then follow the same guidelines under “think before you speak” before you hit share on that tasteless and insulting meme.
Give yourself a “kindness” challenge
So far, we’ve talked about what not to do to be a better person. This last one is an actionable tip, something that you can do today and every day. Actively challenge yourself to change how you treat people by giving yourself a kindness challenge.
Start with 30 days (30-day challenges are all the rage for a reason, it’s a manageable chunk of time). Each day do something nice for someone else. If you need some inspiration, see how a school in Ireland assigned acts of kindness to their students. You don’t have to spend a single penny or perform grand gestures. Many times, even something as simple as giving someone a genuine compliment or telling them that you appreciate them can completely change the course of their day.
Of course, if you want to perform larger random acts of kindness, go for it. Just make sure you’re doing it because you genuinely want to be a better person and not because you want others to think you are one.
Let me close by repeating the inspiration for this post: “No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all.” Period. So, get out there and show the world that great big heart of yours. In the end, that’s all you’ll be remembered for, anyway.