The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule

Most people have heard of the Golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The Golden rule comes from the words of Jesus recorded in Luke 6:31. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (KJV). “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you” (NET).

Jesus said this in the context of loving other people, even your enemies.  Practically speaking, the way you love others as yourself is to treat them the way you would like to be treated.

Jesus also stated this principle in the Sermon on the Mount: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  Mat. 7:12 (ESV)

“The Platinum Rule”

I once heard an audio on “Relationship Strategies” by Tony Alessandra. In it, he claimed to have a better rule for relating with other people than the one Jesus taught. He said that the Golden rule wasn’t good enough because people are all different. If you treat people the way you want to be treated that might not be the way they want to be treated.

He said it is more effective to behave like the person you are trying to relate to using the communication style they like.

Since platinum is more valuable than gold, he called his rule “the platinum rule.” His “platinum rule” says to, “Do unto others as they would be done unto.” In other words, it is to treat other people the way they want to be treated (rather than the way you would want to be treated).

At first glance, this sounds pretty good.  But is it really better than the Golden rule?

The Golden rule is about how to love your neighbor as yourself.

Love is more than giving people what they want

People often want things that are not good for them.  A child may want to play with fire and eat nothing but candy, but a wise and loving parent is going to give them what they need, not just what they want. A good parent will protect their child from their own foolish desires because they understand what is best for their child.

Rather than doing unto the child as the child would like “to be done unto,” a good parent treats their child the way they (the parent) knows they need to be treated. The good parent follows the Golden rule.

A more adult example would be teaching someone how to fish rather than just giving them a fish. A starving person may want a meal. Giving that person a meal would be a loving thing to do in keeping with both the Golden rule and Tony’s “platinum rule.”

But the Golden rule would do more. The Golden rule would teach the person how to feed himself for a lifetime, rather than just giving them one meal. The Golden rule goes beyond just what a person wants. It gives them what they need.

Cultural Differences and Personal Preferences

In fairness to Tony, he had cultural differences, personal preferences, and communication styles in mind. He gave the example of his gregarious Italian mother, annoying people in a restaurant with her outgoing friendliness, when others just wanted to enjoy a quiet meal. Tony thought his mother should treat other people the way they want to be treated rather than the way she likes interacting.

In that sense, this principle seems to apply. Perhaps we should be sensitive to the wishes and desires of other people. In situations like this, maybe we should treat people the way they want to be treated rather than the way we would want to be treated. This, of course, assumes that we know how the other people want to be treated. That is rarely true with strangers.

But is treating people the way you know they want to be treated really different than the Golden rule?  I don’t think so.

How to Love

The Golden rule is about how to love your neighbor as yourself. It is about how to keep the 2nd greatest commandment. Most of the time that is the same for all people. All people want their needs met. Everyone wants to be treated with love and compassion. 

People want to be treated with kindness, dignity and respect. People wanted to be helped rather than hindered. People want to receive a smile, not a snarl. People want to be lifted up, not cut down. People want to be free rather than slaves.

We usually know what others want because we share the same human nature. In most ways we want the same things.

The Platinum Corollary

I believe taking personal preferences into account is included in the Golden rule. When you give someone you love a gift, you don’t give them what you want. You try to find something they will like. And that is exactly how you want to be treated.

When you know someone well enough to understand their likes and dislikes, then love requires you to take that knowledge into account. Treating people the way you want to be treated means you will consider their preferences, if you know them.

A “corollary” is an obvious deduction or easily drawn conclusion; a natural consequence or result. Tony Alessandra’s idea of treating people the way they want to be treated is an obvious consequence of the Golden rule. Being considerate of the feelings and wishes of other people is a natural result of genuine love. So this principle is a corollary of the Golden rule rather than a superior new rule.

So in your practice of the Golden rule, consider using the Platinum corollary:

“Treat others in the way they would like to be treated.”

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