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In game theory, it works out better for everyone if the players treat each other well, but if you treat the other game players too well they will come to expect the good treatment and take advantage of you. If one’s life was only to maximize personal gain then that game strategy would be reasonable, but there is more to life than maximizing points in the particular game you choose to play, games like making money. In the child through sage steps of a normal life cycle, an individual moves through a stage of personal acquisition and learns how to acquire things, then as an adolescent to maximize personal gain but then if the person develops normally they move on to being helpful to their family and on to their community and hopefully on to all humanity.

One aspect of becoming mature is learning how to be nicer to other people than you are to yourself. When people go through their early life they learn the habits of the surrounding people and if they are lucky those people are kind and helpful to them. If that is the culture that is instilled into their character it is very easy, even automatic, for them to be kind to others.

Unfortunately, most people encounter adverse childhood experiences (ACE test) as is shown in the ACE test results finding that 87% of employed Americans with health care insurance had one or more adverse childhood experiences out of a possible ten points. The general public hasn’t been studied but is undoubtedly much worse because many people are not employed and have full health insurance. 12.5% of this select group have four or more of the ten possible problems examined on the test.

Nearly everyone you encounter has been abused as a child. It is difficult for people who have been abused to be completely trusting of other people, and yet we are all dependent upon others. Thus, there is a lifelong struggle to get what we need from other people and yet not be taken advantage of by them and be abused by them.

Most discover that if you treat people well they will treat you well. That is the reason the standard Golden Rule is effective, and the flip of that rule, called the Silver Rule, is effective too. Don’t be mean to others and they will not be mean to you. The implication of both those rules is that you can control others by treating them well, and it works most of the time. Society is dependent on everyone treating others reasonably well, and yet it is necessary to have criminal laws to protect us all from those people who can’t treat other people with this kind of basic respect. Most of us learn to spot trouble at a distance and simply avoid it, and that almost always works. Identify trouble early and simply walk away.

For those people who have been abused, it is more difficult to walk away when they are challenged and to be friendly because they feel they must defend themselves. For people with very little adverse childhood experience when they see trouble coming it is seen as something alien to their worldview and they can choose not to engage with it. These fortunate people have learned to be nicer to people than some of the people they encounter are to them. These are the people who will raise children with low ACE scores and these are the people we all should pay attention to. We should avoid identifying with troubled people and following their bad examples. The high ACE people may want to be nice to you, but life is difficult for everyone and especially difficult for them. They have unintentionally developed some bad habits.

Everyone, even abused people, can …

Make it a habit to always treat everyone better than they treat you.