The Golden Rule: Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated

The term “The Golden Rule” can be traced back to the 17th century; however, the concept is not new. The rule symbolizes a standard and a virtue inherent in our nature, as we can be aware of our obligation towards other people. 


The Golden Rule

Some say the “Golden Rule” is the name that was given to the principle Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount. The exact term “Golden Rule” is not found in the scripture in the same way as the phrase “Sermon on the Mount” isn’t found either.

“Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” – Matthew 7:12. Often known as the Golden Rule, this teaching is possibly the most well-known moral tenet.


The English Standard Version translates the Golden Rule like this: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus distills all of the Old Testament into this single concept, which is taken from Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” In this passage, we can see that humans tend to be lovers of themselves and self-centered and that the bible uses their self-love as a point of reference in the way we should treat people.

Everyone wants respect and love regardless of whether they merit the same or not. Jesus recognized this need and utilized it to encourage moral behavior.  

  • Do you desire to be treated with respect? You should show respect to people. 
  • Do you want to be surrounded by a loving word? Say words of kindness to those around you. 

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” – Acts 20:35; is also known as the Golden Rule.

When Jesus taught this, “The Golden Rule,” it was not and is not as an “ethic of reciprocity” so popularly embraced by moralists who are not Christians; we can see this in Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” A lot of secular humanists and liberals explain the uniqueness of the Golden Rule away, saying it is a common ethic shared by all religions. It’s not true. A subtle yet significant distinction characterizes Jesus’s command. A quick look at the scriptures from Eastern religions will reveal this:

  • Hinduism: “This is the sum of all duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” (Mahabharata 5:1517)
  • Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you, yourself, would find hurtful” (Udanavarga 5:18)

These statements are like those of the Golden Rule but are stated in a negative way and are based on passiveness. Jesus’ Golden Rule is a positive way to show love proactively. Other religions say, “Refrain from doing”; Jesus says, “Do!” Some religions claim it’s enough to keep your negative behaviors in check; Jesus teaches us to find ways to be positive. Due to the “inverted” nature of the non-Christian teachings, this other term has been referred to by the term “silver rule.”

Golden Rule in Religion and Culture

We’ve already discussed that the most fascinating aspect of The Golden Rule is that it is found within all major religious systems, schools of thought, and philosophies throughout the world and at all times. We would like to highlight some of them.

  • Baha’i: “Blessed is who prefers his brother to himself” (Baha’u’llah tablets, the 19th century).
  • Christianity: “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. These two commands are the basis of all on the Law and the prophets.” (Gospel from Matthew 22 36-40 – 1. century C.E.).
  • Judaism: “What is hateful to you, don’t do to a fellow human; this is the whole Law. All else is just commentaries” (Talmud, Shabbat 3id the 16th century B.C.).
  • Islam: “None of you [truely] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” (Hadith 13, the Forty Hadith of Imam Nawawi 7th Century).
  • Sikhism: “I am a stranger to none, and no one is stranger to me. In fact, my friendship extends for all” (Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scripture of Sikhism, p. 1299 to 15th century).
  • Zoroastrianism: “Do not do to others what is harmful to yourself” (Shayast-na-Shayast 13 29 – in the 18 and 15 centuries B.C.).

Types and Forms of The Golden Rule

The golden rule could be explained in three different ways:

Positive/directive form

You must treat others in the same manner as you would like to be treated. 

Negative/prohibitive form

You shouldn’t act towards people in a way that you would never like to be treated. This implies, for example, that if you don’t want others to say hurtful things about you, then you should not say anything hurtful to them.

Empathic and responsive form

The empathic version of the golden rule is that when you wish something on others, you also wish it on yourself. This means, for instance, that if you wish to do something bad towards someone else, you’re also making that wish towards yourself.

Different people are exposed to various forms of the golden rules on different levels based on various things, like the dominant religion that is prevalent in their communities, but all of these variations of the golden rule are built around the same basic idea and have the same basic goal. In essence, all versions of the golden rule are designed to help you treat other people more effectively, using how you prefer to be treated by others as a behavior model.

Note: The golden rule’s negative form is sometimes called the silver rule. Additionally, the general notion of the gold rule can be called the ethics of reciprocity. In some instances, the term “golden rule” can refer to a significant principle or rule in the field of study (for instance, “the golden rule of engineering”) and not about the Golden Rule within the sense of morality.

Examples of the Golden Rule

There are a myriad of ways that the golden rule could be used in different variations. For instance:

  • If you would like people to be courteous towards you, then be courteous to them. (positive form)
  • If you’re not looking for anyone to treat you rudely, you shouldn’t act rude to anyone. (negative form)
  • If you wish for people to assist you in a way that is selfless, it is also your duty to aid people in a kind and selfless way. (positive form)
  • If you do not want others to be selfish and refuse you the help they might be able to offer the world, you shouldn’t cut them off from the help you can offer. (negative form)
  • If you wish positive things for someone else, then you’ve also wished positive things for yourself. (empathic form)

Criticism of The Golden Rule and possible solutions

Accounting for the wishes of others

The primary criticism that people voice concerning the Golden Rule, especially in relation to its application in real life, is that it implies that people want to be treated the same way you would like to be treated, but this is not the case.

This can result in problematic situations where one party could be mistreating another person following the golden rule. This, for instance, can cause one to make a blatant romantic gesture towards someone who doesn’t want to be involved due to the fact that the person who made the gesture would like to see someone else do the same thing for them.

This subject was outlined by the writer George Bernard Shaw, who famously wrote: “Do not do unto other people as you would you would want them to do unto you. Their tastes might be different.”

To tackle this issue, an alternative to the golden rule was made, dubbed the platinum rule; it means you should treat people how you would like to be treated, but this rule has been widely criticized in particular since it can create problems that lead people to act in a manner that is contrary to their beliefs and values. Plus, there are situations in which it’s impossible to follow the platinum rule, for instance, when you aren’t capable of knowing what the other person needs or when the golden rule can lead to more favorable outcomes, such as when it encourages people to be more compassionate. In this sense, the platinum rule isn’t necessarily better than the golden rule, but there are situations where it’s better to apply both rules in conjunction or even to apply the golden rule alone.

The platinum rule may be called by different names, like the copper rule or the reverse of the golden rule. 

Conflict with other principles

Another major critique of the golden rule is that in some situations, the application of this rule could result in undesirable consequences if it conflicts with other principles of guidance, which include moral principles and other kinds of principles like legal or social ones.

If, for instance, someone is found guilty of a crime and sent to prison, the gold rule suggests that we let them go because we wouldn’t wish to be in prison ourselves. This is the case even if we follow the platinum rule since the prisoner may prefer not to go to jail. Still, this issue of the golden rule could be resolved broadly by considering this rule as a principle that determines our actions in our lives as people and as a community.

Particularly, in the above scenario, the golden rule will not be sufficient to stop the person from committing a crime in the sense that most people and societies prefer to put different ethical and legal rules above the golden rule while nevertheless taking the golden rules into consideration. That means they try to apply the golden rule in all circumstances in the event that it does not conflict with the application of a larger idea.

This idea is described by example in the writings of the philosopher Henry More, who said, “The Evil you would not have done to your self, you must abstain from doing the same to another, as far as may be done without prejudice to a Third.”

Is The Golden Rule simply a matter of Give-and-Take?

No!!! The main focus of The Golden Rule is on giving. When Jesus taught his Golden Rule, he was talking about the way to treat people, not just the general public, but also those who are adversaries. We can see this in:

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods, do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” – Luke 6:27-31.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” – Luke 6:35.

So this is how the Golden Rule encourages people to be good to everyone.

How can you apply the Golden Rule?

Be Aware

Be attentive to the people who are around you. For example, you might witness someone struggling to carry a suitcase, learn of an acquaintance who’s sick, or see that a coworker is feeling depressed. When you look to serve the interests of all others, you will likely discover opportunities to share or do something beneficial. 

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4.

Be empathetic

Imagine yourself in the other’s position. What would you think of yourself in that circumstance? 

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” -Romans 12:15 

If you attempt to comprehend the emotions and feelings of other people, you will find yourself compelled to help them.

Be flexible

Be aware that each person is unique; what others would prefer you do for them might not be the same as what you would like to see done for yourself. So, among the numerous things you can do, you should pick what they will appreciate most. 

“Let no one seek his own good but the good of his neighbor.” – 1 Corinthians 10:24.

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The Golden Rule Quotes

The golden rule is one of the most important principles in life, and you should be a follower of it.

These golden rule quotes from people who share their life experiences and particular areas of expertise.

  • “Nothing within the Golden Rule says that others will treat us in the same way that we treated them. It is only saying that we should treat others with respect and in the same way that we would wish to be treated.” – Rosa Parks.
  • “If we don’t manage to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be, as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand to the next generation.” – Karen Armstrong Karen.
  • “Practicing the Golden Rule is not a sacrifice; it’s an investment.” – Byllye Avery.
  • “That which you do not wish for yourself, do not impose on others.” – Umar.
  • “If you contemplate the Golden Rule, it turns out to be an injunction to live by grace rather than by what you think other people deserve.” – Deepak Chopra.
  • “For understanding in spiritual matters, the golden rule is not intellect but obedience.” – Oswald Chambers.
  • “Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.” – Mark Twain.
  • “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.” – Edwin Markham.


The Golden Rule is a timeless rule that encourages people to treat people the way they would prefer to be treated. It’s a simple but effective idea and can be used in every aspect of our lives, from relationships with family and friends to business relationships. When we practice empathy, kindness, and courtesy towards people around us, we can build an environment that is better for us and those in our lives. In the end, the Golden Rule reminds us that our actions have consequences and we have the ability to create positive change in the world.

“It’s the Golden Rule” Jordan Peterson “It’s often read as be nice to other people.”
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