home Opinion How Valuable is the Golden Rule?

How Valuable is the Golden Rule?

By: Matthew Eng

How golden is the golden rule? Art by Julia Wang

Almost all of us have heard of the “Golden Rule”: Treat others as you would have them treat you. It’s been hailed as the essential basis for human rights, the universal standard, the key to world peace, and so on. It is a prominent principle in nearly every religion and a core belief for many. Well, I’m here to tell you that the Golden Rule is, in fact, fool’s gold.

Now, I don’t mean that the Golden Rule is in and of itself a bad rule; no, the Golden Rule is a pretty decent standard—it just doesn’t work. Everyone comes from a different background and is sensitive to different things. Treating others as you want them to treat you doesn’t always work. Take me for example. You want to talk to me about serial killers, the latest school shooting, and Karl Marx? Sure. Go right ahead. However, there are plenty of people who aren’t comfortable talking about any of those topics. What you say will affect people in different ways. This isn’t just limited to words either. Actions one person thinks are okay might make another uncomfortable. Have you ever met someone who’s just a little too friendly? You know, the kind that hugs too tight for too long or is overly enthusiastic to shake your hand? They might think it’s fine, but to others, they can come off as, at best, overly friendly, and at worst, downright creepy. Your actions affect people in different ways and the Golden Rule doesn’t take this into account. People have boundaries, and while some are unreasonable, most deserve to be respected.

So then, what is the “golden rule”—the pinnacle of being a respectable human being? The answer is simple: there is none. The Golden Rule tells us that we can all get along, that we can achieve world peace, that we can make everyone happy, just by following one simple command. The painful truth is that there is no single solution to the world’s discord. One cannot possibly hope to please every person they meet, nor should they try to. Some of us just won’t be able to get along and you know what? That’s okay.

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