The New Golden RuleDo we need a new Golden Rule? It’s not uncommon to find in modern literature, the call for a new golden rule. Is the Golden Rule adequate in today’s world?
The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Some would say that this just isn’t enough: in our global village, we need to consider cultural differences and the desires of others. This thinking suggests that we humans have never found ourselves in a multicultural setting before now.
The new Golden Rule goes something like this: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. The need for a change really reflects a narrow view or understanding of the original intent of the Golden Rule. In fairness, calls for a new rule points to the very real need to explain the intent of the original. That it should and would need to be explained properly to each succeeding generation is a fact of life.
It should be noted that the term “Golden Rule” does not come from the Bible. However, the Bible does say that whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them. The rule has been stated in many ways for millennia. Almost 4000 years ago, written on papyrus, we have from the Egyptian story, The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, "Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do." Similarly, the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca instructed leaders to "Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors." (Epistulae morales ad Lucilium 47:11) Clearly, human nature hasn’t changed much.
Rules are tools designed to get our thinking and behavior to a place that we might not naturally go to on our own. As a rule, the Golden Rule is no different. It is an attempt to guide us to the thinking behind the rule so that it is manifested in our behavior.
The Golden Rule is an introduction to a lesson on responsibility, awareness, ethics and outgoing concern for others. The principle the rule is trying to get at is one of selfless service to others. We naturally look at things from our own vantage point. So it’s not surprising that we look at the rule selfishly as well—from our own viewpoint.
The rule has within it the implicit instruction to treat others thoughtfully—in the same manner of outgoing concern—as you would like them to treat you. Certainly none of us would want others to treat us in a way that shows disregard for our personal needs and feelings. The principle of the Golden Rule is selflessness. It is not meant to imply that you should do for others exactly what you want them to do for you. It’s not about you.
This rule is about how to treat others. It’s not a manipulative behavior to get others to do something for you. It’s an approach to how you should be treating others regardless of how they treat you. It’s not a training behavior to get others to do a specific act for you. “I did this for you, so now you should do this for me.” We are to treat others—in the same manner—as we would like to be treated by anyone we come into contact with.
The Golden Rule is a lesson that can hardly be introduced to children soon enough. It’s a prescript that should be followed throughout life. This is a tall order, but something every leader should strive to develop. It is the essence of service and servant leadership. Properly understood, the Golden Rule encompasses cultural and personal differences.
Certainly, the intent of modern literature on this issue is to jog our thinking from a self orientation to an other orientation in our dealings with others. As is, the Golden Rule, if practiced, would go a long way to improving our relationships.
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