Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Other Golden Rule

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

This common phrasing of the Golden Rule appears in the Biblical gospels and is attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. Philosophies from the ancient cultures of India, Greece, China, and others state the rule in similar positive variations of "Do to others what you would like to be done to you," or, in the negative form (the "Silver Rule"), "Do not do to others what you would not like to be done to you."

More recently, the Golden Rule has been viewed in terms of the feelings of others, and reconfigured as the "Platinum Rule," "Do unto others as they want done to them."

No matter which forms you apply to guide your behavior, these rules create an important ethical foundation for reciprocity and human rights. And, the principles emphasize the necessity to develop empathy, compassion, kindness, and respect in your treatment of other people.

Despite episodic discrepancies between what they know and how they act, most people seem compelled by these principles.

Therefore, in my own professional experience with individuals and organizations, I acknowledge their desire for and commitment to principle-based living, and shift the focus with this question:

To what extent do you apply these principles and their related qualities (e.g., empathy) in your treatment of yourself?

In order to answer this question, you might want to reflect on the following considerations:
  • Have you ever said something like, "I'm my own worst enemy"?
  • Do you give others, not yourself, the benefit of the doubt?
  • Do you "sacrifice yourself on the altar of another person's comfort"? That is, make it easy or more comfortable for others before yourself.
  • Do you support everyone else's needs to feel cared for and loved, and ignore yours?
  • Do you forgive other people, while criticizing yourself?
  • And more such questions . . .
You get the idea.

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you can see that you're applying the principles of the Golden Rule in ways that primarily benefit others and not you.

Many societal, cultural, and religious norms support this disparity by stating that you shouldn't be concerned with yourself, that such concern is limiting, and that self-regard generates egotism.

My encounters with people who live the Golden Rule principles on behalf of others and themselves, suggest another conclusion. In different situations, and with different people, they use their self-awareness to determine their ability and willingness to give freely. Within this awareness, they can typically give to others from a space of love, not fear (i.e., scarcity or defensiveness). In this way, their self-orientation and self-acceptance allow them to be expansive and empathic, rather than limited and egotistical.

In my view, this orientation to self becomes a necessary and healthy condition, and promotes the actualization of the Golden Rule in your interactions with others.

In this Light, I offer another loving principle to accompany the rules discussed here:

"Do unto yourself as you would do unto others."

Love and Peace,

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