Misinterpretation of the Golden Rule

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”  This is the Ethics of Reciprocity or the common interpretation of the Golden Rule.

In this interpretation, critics argue that the rule takes on the meaning that if you don’t want something yourself, then you don’t have to do it for others.  If you, yourself, do not want to be loved, it is unnecessary to love others.

However, this is not true.

The Golden Rule has nothing to do with what you currently want.  It has to do with what the other person wants.  Or more specifically, or what you would want if you were the other person, having their same desires, circumstances, and emotions.

Many people interpret the rule so that they can sit idle.  If someone asks for help, they feel they are within the rule to refuse because they would not have asked for that help.  So they will not do unto others as they would not want others to do to unto them.  In theory, if you are a masochist, it is permissible to inflict pain on others.

From the standpoint of religious teaching, we see different variations in almost all the religions.

Mohammed teaches, “That man who regards all creatures as his own self, and behaves towards them as towards his own self, laying aside the rod of chastisement and completely subjugating his wrath, succeeds in attaining to happiness.”

The Mahabharata states, “That man who regards all creatures as his own self, and behaves towards them as towards his own self, laying aside the rod of chastisement and completely subjugating his wrath, succeeds in attaining to happiness.”

In Jainism, “In support of this Truth, I ask you a question – “Is sorrow or pain desirable to you ?” If you say “yes it is”, it would be a lie. If you say, “No, It is not” you will be expressing the truth. Just as sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breath, exist, live or have any essence of life. To you and all, it is undesirable, and painful, and repugnant.”

Taoists preach, “”Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

And of course, Jesus “…when the Pharisees, the chief religious sect of that day, asked Him about the greatest commandment in the Law (See Matthew 22:36-40). These religious leaders had made almost an art form of classifying all the various laws and giving them relative degrees of importance, so in asking Jesus this question, their aim was to test Him. His answer stunned them: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Golden Rule is not specific to a religion or an ethnicity.

Interestingly Satanism has a version of this rule as well:

“Do unto others as they have done unto you.”

In the future tense, this could be interpretted to mean:

“Do unto others as they will do unto you.”

If we assume that “they will do unto you” can be interpretted in terms of the two possibilities surrounding our wants, we get:

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you

and do unto others as you would not have done unto you.”

So the Satanic version actually incorporates the Golden Rule in the Reciprocal form.  This doesn’t sound like something any religion would agree too.  So what is missing?

The problem with the “do unto” interpretation of the Golden Rule is that it speaks in terms of actions towards either you or the other person.  That is why the religious versions do not involve an action, but an understanding or emotion towards the other person.  “Regard” your neighbor, “love” your neighbor, “desire” no sorrow for your neighbor.

The Do concept allows us to create a checklist of actions that we perform (or don’t perform) based on our own desires.  The religious interpretations look at the end result.  What causes your neighbor sorrow that is not desirable to you?  What causes them to be loved by you as you love yourself? What causes your neighbor to be regarded as yourself?  The answers to these questions provide us with the actions required of us by the Golden Rule.

The difference in the Satanic version is that, in Satanism, one does not consider the resultant physical, emotional or spiritual state of your neighbor, only yourself.

A person who does not want to be loved, is literally saying they have no need to be loved.  This may not be the case for your neighbor.  Your neighbor may want to be loved more than you do.  The correct application of the Golden Rule requires that you love them as much as is needed for them to achieve that resultant state of being loved.

If you wanted it as much as they did, then you would want them to provide it for you.

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