The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule shows up in many different religions and ethical systems. Christianity states it this way: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  -Luke 6:31

Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism state it in the negative; basically, don’t do things to others that you yourself would find hateful. Most other religions have some form of this, as well.  I think we can all agree that it’s a worthy rule to live by.

George Bernard Shaw, however, pointed out a flaw.  He said, “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” A better law might be to treat people as they would like to be treated, rather than as you would like to be treated. This is harder work, because it requires a greater level of understanding and compassion.

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3 thoughts on “The Golden Rule

  1. This is something I’ve often contemplated. In my communication course, my professor referred to it as “The Platinum Rule,” in the sense that it is a higher and more precious law than the original. There are a few actions that I believe are universally appreciated, such as honesty and sincerity, but so many daily actions must be carefully and individually considered if we truly want to do the best for those around us.

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  2. I see a flaw in George Bernard Shaw’s quote. You quote him as saying “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” Let’s say that my friend is sick. Under the golden rule, I should minister to my friend’s needs because I would want somebody to minister to my needs when I’m sick. But, using Shaw’s rationale, I should leave my friend alone because his tastes might be different. So, by using Shaw’s rationale I become less charitable. Why? Whereas under the Golden Rule I acted because I would want to be treated kindly, under (let’s call it) Shaw’s Corollary I fail to act because those I might assist might have different tastes than I do and by acting, I might offend their tastes.

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  3. David, Shaw’s Corollary (good name, by the way) doesn’t say not to act, only to act while taking into account their desires. I’m sure everyone wants to be treated kindly, but it’s important to remember that what you consider kindness may not work for someone else. If I were hungry and you offer me sardines, I’d be happy, because I love them. But if you offered them to my wife, she might not be as pleased.

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