the golden rule

Many people agree that the religious traditions of the world share similarities.  One of those similarities is the Golden Rule.  Essentially, the Golden Rule states that we must treat others as we wish others to treat us.  In 1993, the “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic” was signed at the Parliament of the World’s Religions by 143 religious leaders from the world’s foremost faiths.  This declaration states that the Golden Rule is the unifying principle of religion today.

That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.
–Zoroastrianism

What does the Golden Rule truly mean?  What is the message it conveys?  Many describe it as a call to service—a call to treat others with kindness, courtesy, and respect.  Yet, within the last few decades, individuals and companies have begun to implement the Platinum Rule, arguing that the Golden Rule is outdated.  Those using the Platinum Rule say that in today’s world it is important to treat others the way THEY want to be treated.  This logic states that the Golden Rule is based on the assumption that others want to be treated as we do, whereas the Platinum Rule shifts the focus from ME to YOU, from US to THEM.

This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.
–Hinduism

The Platinum Rule asks how you want to be treated, rather than assuming you want to be treated as I do.  Logically, this makes sense.  If we are going to be of service to an individual or community, it is important to offer services preferred by the recipient.  I agree that it is crucial to first learn what a person or community needs before providing a service; otherwise, how do we know that what we are providing is needed? Is beneficial?  Is worth expending energy, time, and resources on?

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
–Buddhism

Yet, as a believer in the Changeless Faith of God, how do I reconcile the accuracy and necessity of the Platinum Rule with the fact that so many major religious traditions have some form of the Golden Rule?  Is it possible that this particular Divine Teaching, found in so many of the world’s religions, is lacking in depth and clarity?  I don’t believe so.  It is more plausible that we, the followers of these faith-traditions, are misunderstanding the full scope of the spiritual teachings.  Otherwise, why would so many religions refer to their own version of the Golden Rule as the basis of all good conduct, the summation of the law of God, the whole of the Torah, the requirement of a true believer, and the sum of duty?

What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.  That is the law: all the rest is commentary.
–Judaism

Having thought about this concept for some time now, and in light of the above religious claims, I have come to the conclusion that the Golden Rule is not merely a directive to serve.  While serving others is a crucial and fundamental aspect of any faith, I believe the call to do unto others as we would have done unto ourselves is an invocation, regardless of faith and culture, to live our lives with intention and authenticity—to see through our own eyes and not through the eyes of others.

All things whatsoever that ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.
–Christianity

To be authentic people we must first reflect on our own character and, while taking into consideration the needs of others, walk a path of truthfulness and integrity. For if we can be honest with ourselves about our strengths, weaknesses, gifts, talents, needs, and capacities, and align our actions with this knowledge, then we can more fully and selflessly serve humanity.  Therefore, the Golden Rule teaches us that we can truly be of service through exploring, cultivating, and living out our souls deepest longings.

No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
–Islam

If we live by this standard, a standard of authenticity and integrity, just think…

Just think how effective we will be as servants once we align our thoughts, words, and actions and become living examples of integrity.
How honest we will be with ourselves and others about what we are and are not able to offer.
How content we will feel when our actions come from a place of authentic self-expression.
How openly we will listen.
How purposefully we will speak.
How joyfully we will serve.

Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.
–Bahá’í

What a beautiful world we will create as we think, speak, and act with an integrity that comes from truly knowing ourselves.
Is it any wonder that so many of the world’s faiths are united around this principle?
Is it any wonder that the Divine, in a myriad of languages, asks this of us?

Previously posted on The Devo

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© 2012-2013 Lindsey Lugsch-Tehle
All rights reserved.

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One response to “the golden rule

  1. Pingback: Finding A Balance (Part 3) | building a fortress·

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