That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.

The Eloquent Peasant, Egypt, c. 2160-2025 BCE

Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.

Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29, Zoroaster, 660-583 BCE

Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.

Pittacus of Mytilene, c. 640-568 BCE

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

Udanavarga 5:18, Gautama Buddha, c. 563-483 BCE

What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

Analects, Confucius, c. 551-479 BCE

In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.

Mahavira, 540-468 BCE

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:18, 538-332 BCE

One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.

Socrates, c. 470-399 BCE

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

Talmud Shabbat 31, Hillel the Elder, c. 110 BCE-7 CE

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:31, Jesus Christ, c. 3 BCE-33 CE

None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.

Sahih Muslim, Muhammad, 570-632 CE

Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.

Tablets of Baha'u'llah 71, Baha'u'llah, 1817-1892 CE

The golden rule of conduct is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see truth in fragment and from different points of vision.

In Search of the Supreme, Vol. 3, Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948 CE

It is easy to get discouraged by the stories of pain and evil we read and see in the media, but we would be happier to remember that throughout history, there has been a vocal minority who has chosen to live life by the Golden Rule. Those heroes have known that the world is more beautiful when people from disparate religious, racial, ethnic, political, and ideological backgrounds choose to treat others the way they want to be treated.

How do We Want to be Treated?

In order to know how to live by the Golden Rule, we need to understand what most of us value and how we want to be treated. In the context of intimate relationships, research shows that we want emotional accessibility and responsiveness from others (Johnson, 2008) and that we thrive in relationships where we express and experience positive emotion (e.g., “I love you”) far more than negative (Gottman & Gottman, 2008). At the societal level, we want political rights and freedom and low corruption (see Diener et al., 2012 for a review).

There are individual and cultural differences in what people value and how they would like to be treated, but these differences tend to be in weight, and are not evidence that what is valued by one group is not valued at all by another. For example, financial satisfaction is more important to people living in individualistic cultures than in collectivistic cultures, but people from both cultures still see financial stability as an important component of life satisfaction (see Diener et al., 2012 for a review). 

The Means Matter

It is the Golden Rule that teaches us that the end does not justify the means. If we truly believe that we should do to others as we would have them do to us, then our response to enemies should be self-controlled, measured, and whenever possible, peaceful. Yes, there are times when we should confront an enemy in battle, but we should not revel in war or use excessive force. This is why we charge our own soldiers with war crimes when we find out they have persecuted, tortured, and used other dishonorable means when confronting the enemy. The Golden Rule does not direct us along evil paths on the journey toward a better world.  

Diversity, Intolerance, & Persecution

Sadly, all of us have had moments when we do not live by the Golden Rule. During these dark times, we respond to disagreement and diversity with intolerance and persecution. The world becomes evil when we oppress, hurt, abuse, berate, marginalize, hate, and disrespect those who are different from us.

Ideological diversity may provide the most difficult test of how much we value the Golden Rule. Nicholas Kristof, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, in an article on the challenges brought on by ideological diversity said, “We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.” He made this confession as a political liberal, but the struggle to abide by the Golden Rule in the face of ideological diversity is shared by people across the political spectrum.

Love Your Enemy

Yes, I am saying that it is possible to disagree without persecuting. To do so is a deep act of love and it is impossible if we do not value the Golden Rule.

When we do to others as we would have them do to us, disagreement can be passionate without being hurtful. The Golden Rule gives us a path to peace in a diverse world where irreconcilable differences between people groups and belief systems are inevitable.