COMMENTARY: The Golden Rule as the Road of Honor

Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Confucius was asked, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?”

He answered, “Reciprocity. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” This basic principle, now called the Golden Rule, can be found in every major religion and philosophy. (see below)

Although many people evoke one version or another of this rule, it’s often misused. You see, the Golden Rule is not primarily a rule of enlightened self-interest. Sure, people are more likely to be nice to you if you’re nice to them, but the moral center of this principle is lost if you simply view it as a rule of exchange: “Do unto others so they will do unto you”  or a rule justifying revenge: “Do unto others as they have done unto you.” or a rule of self-defense: “Do unto others before they do unto you.”

The core of the Golden Rule is a moral obligation to treat others ethically for their sake, not ours, even if it’s better than the way they treat us. Therefore, we should be honest to liars, fair to the unjust, kind to cruel people.

Why? Certainly not because it’s advantageous, but because it’s right. And because the way we treat others is about who we are, not who they are. It’s like the man who broke off an argument that had descended into name-calling by saying, “Sir, I will treat you as a gentleman – not because you are one, but because I am one.”

The Universal Standard of Respect: The Golden Rule

Christianity: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12; “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31

Judaism: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Leviticus 19:18; “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Islam: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.”

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18

Confucianism: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Analects 15:23; ‘Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?’ Confucius replied, ‘It is the word ‘reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.'” Doctrine of the Mean 13.3

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517

Comments 9

  1. I love your articles, but some of my frineds are not on Facebook or twitter. Is there any other way you could let us share your articles? Maybe simply by emailing them?

  2. Leviticus 19:18. Written about 1000 years before Confuscious. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”

  3. That is how I live my life but I do think of it as behavior that benefits me, not that I will receive something from others but in the way that I feel good about myself. Do good so you will feel good and be good. So simple. Eudaemonism, not a bad way to live your life.

  4. God said, “the least you do to your brothers you do unto me”. anything that we do to our brothers whether good or bad, we do to god. the bible also says that whatever we do , do with all our heart and do things for the Lord and not for men. these are the words that guide me in my journey thru life. if we do things for god, how can we ever do evil things to mankind.

  5. Pingback: The Secret About Secrets. When considering doing something you think should be kept secret from someone whose trust you value there are two basic considerations:

  6. Hello Michael & Anne,
    Thank you for your good work in helping to make it a better world.

    In trying my best in living the Golden Rule; It was forty seven years ago… January 1972, I researched the Golden Rule as it’s written in the books of the worlds eight major religions.
    The wording is always different but the meaning is always close to the same message.
    I took the privilege of modernizing and simplifying the words to say…
    Treat Others the Way You want to be Treated, Truthfully, with Dignity and Respect.

    Our Golden Rule Society philosophy is simple and powerful…
    To Better the Lives of Others is Your Life’s Greatest Reward, which makes the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life.
    Sincerely Yours,
    Captain Len Kaine
    Nobel Peace Prize Nominations 2018, 2017, 2014 & 2003
    Visit our website @

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