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May 27, 2004

Do unto others as....

The 'Golden Rule' says that we should "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Sounds reasonable.


Doesn't that assume that they want or desire the same things that we do? Doesn't that imply that we can satisfy them by giving them what we want? Does that work? Aren't their needs, wants, and desires different from ours?

Here's a good example: I grew up in the United States - Southern California to be more precise. As a result, I love peanut butter and jelly. Crunchy peanut butter spread on thick covered with gobs and gobs of grape jelly. For me, it's 'soul food.' Just the thought of it brings back childhood memories so strong and vivid that I almost think I'm back there for a moment. My wife, on the other hand, grew up in Chiba, Japan. Her particular brand of 'soul food' from her childhood includes sticky white rice, natto (a type of crushed fermented soybean mash), and a pickled sour plum. It wouldn't make much sense for me to serve her a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, no matter how great I might think it tastes. Nor do I want to chow down on natto - far from it. I can, however, fix her some natto and hope that she will get the message and buy more crunchy peanut butter for me....

The same challenges, and opportunities, come up in business almost every day. An engineer designs a new product that he (or she) thinks is absolutely fantastic, then wonders why it doesn't sell. An investor picks a stock and invests a bundle because they really 'like the company' when they should be investing in companies that other investors will like enough to buy the stock from them at a premium.

So, what's a better Golden Rule?

How about - "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them."

May 27, 2004 | Permalink


You are correct from the perspective of ‘wants and desires.’ From there, trying to employ either one of the golden rules you proposed would fail. Life would not be satisfying if we spent all our energy requiring people to want the things we want (master this and you’ll have no friends.); or if it were spent trying to be all things to all people (master this and you will have more friends than you can handle.)
Things like ‘golden rules’ come from a different perspective; a third option, you might call spiritual, that has nothing to do with ‘a’ or ‘b’and is less about what to want, and more about how to be. They are intended to transcend things like want and desire.
Try thinking of it this way:

What you expect unto others, others may expect unto you.

That means if we expect others to once in a while tolerate our bullcrap in our times of weakness and to take into respect our circumstances and to try and have some understanding, and be forgiven; then it is expected that we tolerate others in their times of weakness and take into respect their circumstances and have some understanding, and be forgiving. It's required of a society that thrives. The Golden Rule demands from us a way of being, that if we didn’t think to try and apply it once in a while we might not ever take it upon ourselves to exercise the dwindling human arts of ‘patience’ and 'compassion.' It also bares a suspicious resemblance to the no-longer-enforced Christian tenets “Judge not, that ye be not judged” and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
Not to get preachy, it just deals with spirituality.
Just my thoughts.

Posted by: brett | Feb 5, 2007 5:09:13 PM

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