The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code or morality that essentially states either of the following:
One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. (Positive form.)
One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (Negative form, also known as the Silver Rule).
This concept describes a "reciprocal", or "two-way", relationship between one's self and others that involves both sides equally, and in a mutual fashion.
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia says:
This concept can be explained from the perspective of psychology, philosophy, sociology and religion. Psychologically, it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically, it involves a person perceiving their neighbor as also "an I" or "self." Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and also between individuals and groups. (For example, a person living by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group.) Religions figure prominently in the history of this concept.
As a concept, the Golden Rule has a history that long predates the term "Golden Rule", or "Golden law", as it was called from the 1670s. As a concept of "the ethic of reciprocity," it has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard way that different cultures use to resolve conflicts. It has a long history, and a great number of prominent religious figures and philosophers have restated its reciprocal, "two-way" nature in various ways (not limited to the above forms). (Please refer to the Wikipedia page for the references.
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Bullying, racism, hate and violence has taken over much of our culture lately. Is it because of 9/11 and all the fears that went along with that or the development of the ultraconservative movement and things like Rush Limbaugh's radio program and Fox News?
Whatever the cause there is an underlying nastiness that permeates the airways, our politics and in our schools and social networks. Hate groups are proliferating. People are treating others as enemies instead of building communities in support and friendship with each other. When you look at someone as an enemy, you erase their humanity. Then they become the n word to refer to those of African origin, the r word for those of native American descent, or rag or towel heads for those of Islamic leanings. They are no longer individuals but grouped as "the enemy." When did do unto others as you would have them do unto you be turned into do unto others before they do it unto you?
When I was a little girl, the Golden Rule was on all the bulletin boards in my school classes. It was drummed into us from kindergarten on up. It was important that we learn it and practice it. How we behaved towards each other made up some of our citizenship grade. (Do they even have a grade for citizenship nowadays?) I learned it as: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." My question is: Do they still teach this in schools and even churches? I know it is not necessarily a religious teaching although one of the commandments of the two great commandments is: Love your neighbor as yourself so it is incorporated into Christianity and Judaism as well as many other international philosophies and religious beliefs.
I want to break down what this means to me. In writing this I do not in anyway mean to sound holier than thou as I have failed in these ideals more times than I can count but I do try to follow them.
How do I not want to be treated? I don't like being yelled at, ridiculed, belittled. I do not like being called names. I do not want to be physically abused, emotionally abused or sexually abused. spit on or ignored. I do not want to be treated as someone's slave or property. I do not want to be treated like an idiot or to be ganged up on. I do not like being nagged or shamed. I do not like people to run guilt trips on me. I do not like being lied to or excluded. I do not want to be intimidated or stolen from. I do not want someone to withhold their love from me.
How do I want to be treated? I want to be loved, accepted and approved of. I want people to show approval when I do something well. I want to be treated gently and as an adult no matter what the situation. I want to be treated as a beloved mother, grandmother, sister and friend. I want to be talked to like the intelligent being that I am. I want to be allowed to make my own decisions and even if they are sometimes wrong to be respected as someone who can decide for myself. I want to be accepted and loved for who I am and not for who someone wants me to be and I do not want to be compared to others whether positively or negatively. I want to be accepted just as me. I do not expect that I will always be agreed with, but I want my opinion respected. I want to live my life on my terms, not trying to please others, though I do like it when what I do pleases others. I want to be treated with dignity and kindness and even if I have made a mistake, I am treated with the respect of and adult and not berated like a child that needs training. I want to be listened to.
How I want to treat others, read above for how I want to be treated. All of that is the way I want to treat others. I try to praise and build up others. I try to respect and accept others for who they are. I do not try to change others as I have seen that people who are constantly trying to change others end up with someone they do not like instead of realizing that it was their first impression of that person that drew them to the other person.
I like a good argument as an intellectual exercise but I recognize your right to have a different opinion. If I become angry with someone I try not to bring up the past or to call them names or to yell and get physical with them. This is hard to do some times, especially with my family members, as I have my own issues and defensiveness that gets in the way of peaceful discussion. I have found that writing a letter gives the other person time to process what I am trying to say as well as makes me be more gentle in telling them what bothers me and we both have the space to come back to the subject more calmly. I also try to deal with my anger with the person that caused it, not passive aggressively with the people I feel safe with.
The old maxim that you catch more flies with honey works well in all my relationships. If I deal with people positively building them up honestly not with flattery but with words of love rather than judgement, I have happier, more peaceful relationships. If someone looks lovely I am not afraid to tell them so. I do not join the crowd and gang up on anyone. If someone is being bullied, I try to stop others from bullying them and then try to find ways to heal them with positive words about themselves. I try to find what I like best in people I do not try to pick them apart trying to find their faults.
Rather than being in a toxic relationship I will walk away rather than being harmed by that relationship and wounding them in the process as well. Sometimes there are people I just do not like or that even if I lean over backward I cannot get along with so it is better to accept that I cannot always like people and to walk away from that relationship, thereby saving both of our dignity. There are enough people on this planet that you can pick and choose your relationships that will help you grow and bloom and who you can help to grow and bloom. Since I am retired I can do this more easily than when I was in the workforce. Sometimes you have to deal with a toxic situation in the workplace whether you want to or not and as a child you may live in a toxic environment. In those situations, speaking positively to people still helps to ease the situation. It is still important to treat those toxic people as you would want to be treated. Who knows where the toxicity comes from? Maybe they are hurting because of mistreatment themselves.
With my children, I try to let them always to feel loved and I try to help all of us to build healthy boundaries. They are adults and deserve to be treated as such. When they were children they had to be led till they learned things. A child takes on the names you give them. I would rather my child take on the name of wonderful, loved, valued and intelligent, than stupid, a problem, liar, or any other negative name. A child will respond positively to positive reinforcement and negatively to negative reinforcement. None of us are perfect and I find that if I focus on the positive aspects of a person, the imperfections that I perceive become less and less important. I find that sometimes their imperfections that I perceive are not necessarily imperfections, just something that I do not understand. Sometimes their imperfections are more of a judgement on myself than actually something that is wrong with them.
When I meet someone from a different background or culture, I join in on the adventure of learning new things, new ideas and new ways of doing things. I love to try new foods and this has brought me much joy in my life. Seeking the humanity in everyone you meet and embracing their differences can make your life warmer, more exciting and richer than if you turn away from anyone that is foreign or different.
I believe that we should start doing a directed teaching of the Golden Rule from preschool through high school. If we begin teaching, not only the rule but what it means so that children can own it internally, can buy into the concepts we might begin to affect how they treat each other. If we start in preschool teaching simple lessons with questions like, how do you like it if someone takes away your toy or hits you and gradually move up to more and more abstract ideas as they get older, we begin to help them to understand that their actions have consequences that shape their lives. If we teach them to love others and themselves, we begin to help them to embrace differences. If they can truly understand the concept of identifying how they feel when they are treated certain ways and begin to understand that others feel the same things, we begin to change the way they deal with other people through the empathy they develop through the understanding of the Golden Rule in a deeply internalized way.
Would this stop the bullying? Would this stop the violence? I think it would go a long way towards mitigating the causes of much of that. Teaching children to respect themselves and others, whether child or adult, changes the dynamics in society. We may have taken religion out of schools but does that mean we have to take morals and ethics out of the schools as well?
I would like to see a Golden Rule movement where we begin a dialogue about interrelationships permeate our society with respect for one another. Who knows what might happen then?