The golden rule

The so-called ‘Golden Rule’ is one of the most well-known ethical standards. It states that you should treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.

I have always strongly disagreed with this. I know it sounds really good, and most people interpret the rule to be saying ‘don’t be an asshole’. And of course you shouldn’t be an asshole. But when you think about it critically, you will come to see that the Golden Rule implies that you treat other people according to your own standards – which may not necessarily be theirs.

The rule focusses on how you would wish to be treated, thereby placing one’s own belief system at the center of the social interaction with others, instead of the needs, wishes, values and cultural traditions of the other person. Who are you to say that somebody else wants to be treated the same way as you? To put it a bit harshly: the Golden Rule sounds great, but is in fact self-centered and disrespectful.

In my view, the real ‘Golden Rule’ should be: You should treat others the way THEY want to be treated. Thereby focussing on, and respecting, the other person’s needs, wishes, values and cultural traditions, and treating them they want, because after all, it’s about them, not about you.