love and heretics

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness

The Evolution of the Golden Rule…

The concept of reciprocity is found in many of the early civilizations and religions.

Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.—Sutta Nipata 705
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.—Dhammapada 10. Violence
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.—Udanavarga 5:18 (Buddha)

“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”Zi gong (a disciple of Confucius) asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”
The Master replied: “How about ‘shu’ : never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?” –Confucius, Analects XV.24

One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.
—Brihaspati, Mahabharata

Judaism: Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself”; and Leviticus 19:34 “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God”. “Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” —Tobit 4:15
“Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes.” Sirach 31:15

I agree that Jesus appears to be the first to add a positive to the usual negative rendering.

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Luke 6:31And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. )commonly rendered as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

However, since his teachings we have evolved it even a bit more, (no intentions to offend here just sharing my own current if less learned than others/ understanding)
From “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” to the understanding through empathy , that others may not like what we like. A small story. A man makes a sandwich for himself and his wife. He brings her the sandwich made for her, and she blurts out, “for years you have given me the heel of the bread on my sandwich!! And yourself the soft bread that is not the heel, you selfish man.!”..(forget that he had been the one making HER the sandwich 😉 ) To which the man replied in surprise, “but my dear…that is my favorite part! ”
A step further in the golden rule, is listening and learning what it is the other truly needs or wants, a step past of just thinking about what we want or desire, and being able to imagine, (realize) that they might want or like something different than ourselves……



  1. So both the man and his wife were not practicing the golden rule. He did not consider whether the wife’s tastes were the same as his own. And she, obviously, resorted to name calling and character assassination.
    I find the negative formulations more pragmatic or at least easier to understand. ‘Do no harm’ and then, through empathy, consider if harm will be caused by an action.

    • I think do no harm or do not do to others what you would not like done is one step.
      I think being proactive in “If you see something, DO something” (like stopping someone from being beat, or sold into slavery, etc) is a deeper step, and then the realization that we must learn to understand each other more deeply, to actually do what they would like done, or help them understand that what they like is actually harmful…?
      Is yet another step beyond. I believe the man was indeed honoring the golden rule. He was doing to her what he would like done to himself…without realizing, (which can come when we choose to listen and understand another)that she herself did not like what he liked…(if this makes sense)

      • Yes it does make sense. I was rather unclear in my comment. That is why the negative ‘do no harm’ formulations of the golden rule make more sense to me. They are a restrictions on action, implying a question of whether it will do harm or not rather than a call to action.

  2. This is an important thing to point out. Good work.

  3. I think you are pointing out that the golden rule can not be followed on auto-pilot, as if it required no effort at empathy and understanding. The man in your story intended to follow the golden rule but only partially succeeded. Paul got at something like this with “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” and more to the point of your story, “for if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.” and expanding on the negative form of the rule, “love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”


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