Treat other people the way you want to be treated. The golden rule is a central tenant in many major religions as well as non-religious belief systems. And it’s old. Really old! A variation of the golden rule appears in ancient an Egyptian story that is nearly 4,000 years old, “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to make him do.”
Greek philosopher, Thales (624BC-546BC) says, “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” Roman philosopher, Seneca (4BC-65AD) says “Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you.” The Old Testament of the Bible says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
If the golden rule plays such an important role in human interactions (arguable the MOST important role in human interactions), why is this rule broken so often?
Double standard is another word for hypocrisy. Hypocrisy can be summed up as “do as I say, not as I do”. A double standard is one of those sneaky things that’s easy to see in others, but very hard to identify in ourselves. In truth, each and every one of us, without exception, is guilty of having a double standard. The degree to which we seek and destroy these double standards is the degree to which we are living by the golden rule.
Masters of Illusion
Humans are master illusionists. Your unique perspective, your exact point of view, your specific beliefs pertaining to good and bad, right and wrong, are illusions… and I can prove it.
Right now, take a deep breath. Close your eyes and picture a person whose perspective is more true, more accurate, more “right” than your own perspective. Think really hard. Are you picturing your parents? Your children? Your spouse? A trusted mentor or advisor?
Nope. If we are being honest, there is NOBODY whose perspective is more accurate than our own! That is because perspective is a collection of your unique experiences, the messages you’ve been told, and most importantly… your interpretation of those experiences and messages.
Here’s the funny thing. We all believe there is such a thing as ultimate truth. We all believe we are closer to that truth than anyone else. The degree to which someone agrees with us is the degree to which they are “right”. The degree to which they disagree with us is the degree to which they are “wrong”.
So we are all sailing around here on this crazy ocean of life, bumping up against others who think they are 100% right, the Sole Vessel of Ultimate Truth! Crazy when you think of it, right?
As Sole Vessel of Ultimate Truth, we concoct stories to suit our wants and needs. Here are common culprits in bending or breaking the Golden Rule:
- Positions of power – “I’m the boss, so I make the rules.” Parents, teachers, employers and older siblings are often guilty of this.
- Retaliation – “She did it to me, so I’m going to do it to her.” Someone causes pain, so we feel justified in causing pain.
- Judgement – “I know better than he does.” We invoke intellectual or moral superiority to justify making decisions on another person’s behalf.
- Victim Mentality – “I’m sick, old, frail, damaged, injured, and need more care (or more of the good stuff) than others.” This one is tricky because it taps our instinct to care for those who truly need our help. The golden rule is breached when the hint of truth masks a deception designed to avoid work or gain unearned rewards.
- Victor Mentality – “I made / have the money, so I make the rules.” Hollywood vilifies the rich kid mentality. A similar dynamic plays out any time you exchange dollars for compliance.
- Social Status – “If I invite her, people will think badly of me.” We fail to support someone for fear of losing face.
If you are encountering conflict in any relationship, there is a good chance the golden rule is being trampled by one person, or most likely both people. To restore harmony, ask yourself this question: “How would I feel if he was treating me the way I’m treating him?” The more time and effort you spend formulating an answer to that question, the more you’ll discover gold in the golden rule.