The Golden Rule is the idea that people should treat others in the same way that they themselves would like to be treated. It is often expressed as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," which is one translation of a Biblical verse, Luke 6:31. Also called the ethic of reciprocity, variations of this concept can found in many religions and throughout history. Some versions urge people to love other people or to avoid doing harm to others. In each case, the underlying theme is that one should treat other people with kindness and respect.
It is not clear when the Golden Rule was first expressed or by whom. The Old Testament book of Leviticus, which was written in about 1400 B.C., says in verse 18, chapter 19: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Chinese philosopher Confucius, who lived from 551–479 B.C., is said to have written, "Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us." A Hindu text written in about the same time period, the Mahabharata, includes the phrase, “Do not unto others which would cause pain if done to you.” Similar concepts are expressed in Taoism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and many other religions and philosophies.
The Golden Rule also has been found in ancient texts from Greece, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, India and other countries. Not all of these texts are expressly religious or philosophical. For example, in Homer's Odyssey, which is believed to have been written sometime in 600-800 B.C., one character states, “I will be as careful for you as I should be for myself in the same need.”
Despite this concept's stated goal of treating others as equals, people throughout history have applied other interpretations to the Golden Rule. For example, some people and cultures have not considered certain other people as worthy of being treated according to the Golden Rule, such as their enemies, members of other cultures or people who have committed offenses or wrongdoings. In other cases, people have interpreted this concept as simply an admonishment to avoid hurting others rather than an appeal to do something good for them.
Reciprocation and Reward
In general, the intent of the Golden Rule is to promote empathy. By considering how kindly one might like to be treated, he or she can then be empathetic in the treatment of others. No matter how someone treats others, however, there is no guarantee that the same behavior will be reciprocated, or given back. As such, those who follow this rule often do so in the hope that, someday, each person will treat everyone else with kindness and will receive kindness from others. Others might do so in the hope that their treatment of others will bring about good karma or blessings, even if their empathy is not reciprocated by everyone with whom they associate.