The Golden Rule is an ethical code that transcends cultural and religious boundaries. It appears in the teachings of the world’s religions and acts as a moral compass for us to navigate the course we take through our daily decisions.
The most popular form of the Golden Rule is:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
~ Jesus Christ
There are many benefits to living by the Golden Rule, which I can’t recount in a single blog post. But I would like to highlight 3 lessons from the Golden Rule:
1- The Two Sides of Social Interactions
There is a huge difference between mocking someone and being mocked by someone. You may enjoy mocking others, but don’t appreciate being mocked. You may enjoy hurting others, but don’t enjoy getting hurt. The Golden Rule asks us to empathize with the person on the other side of the interaction: If we do not appreciate being treated in the same way we treat them, then we shouldn’t treat them that way.
Whenever we interact with others, we should consider both sides of the interaction, and not treat others in a way we wouldn’t like to be treated.
2- Mutual Happiness
The Golden Rule expects us to respect and value our own happiness, as well as the happiness of others. Since we appreciate it when others contribute to our happiness, we should enjoy contributing to theirs. It is not a matter of either I’m happy, or others are happy. We can work together so that everyone is happy.
3- Setting an Example
The way you treat others sets an example to others on how they should treat you. Therefore, rather than expect others to change, you should take responsibility for your own conduct, and set a positive example for others to follow, in how they deal with you, and how they deal with others. This is a powerful contribution we can make to society: When we work on our own conduct, we encourage others to work on theirs.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Sadly, though, the Golden Rule isn’t the moral code we’re living by. Instead, we’re living by a rule that appears golden, but isn’t.
What we’re living by is the Gold-Plated Rule.
“Do unto others as they do unto you.”
~ The Gold-Plated Rule
Instead of considering how others should behave, and setting an example for them to follow, we use the example they already set for us!
If people treat us with disrespect, then we treat them with disrespect.
We react according to their behavior, rather than mindfully living according to our own principles and values.
Rather than challenge the status quo, we conform and contribute to it!
Rather than bring about positive change, we help entrench negative traits!
This is justified in the name of fairness.
If we are mistreated, it’s only fair that we respond in kind. And, of course, we want to be fair, don’t we?
In the name of morality we justify immorality.
We value karma and relish the thought of divine retribution, because we want to see others suffer in the same way we suffered.
The Gold-Plated Rule steers us towards the lowest common denominator in human relationships.
A single act can spread like wildfire in a community, destroying relationships and inflaming bad intentions and evil schemes for retaliation.
The Gold-Plated Rule doesn’t help individuals – and societies – prosper. It helps them self-destruct.
It’s important for us to consciously commit to living by the Golden Rule, and to completely abandon the Gold-Plated Rule.