The New Golden Rule of Empathy – all we need?
The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
A familiar, simple ethic. But is it enough?
This basic tenet of reciprocity– mutual care and concern –has been embraced by civilizations and religions for thousands of years. The many wordings all share a common vision of how human beings should treat each other. The message is this: If I do not like something, I will not do it to someone else.
We teach the Golden Rule everywhere – in our homes, in our faiths, and in our schools – and it is a good place to start, but, no, it isn’t enough. For children (and all of us!) to internalize the deeper meaning of the concept, we have to go beyond this egocentric view to a promise of:
mutual care and concern at multiple levels…
that of the individual,
of one’s culture,
and of all of humanity.
With this change in perspective, we see how the Golden Rule is one of empathy, based on mutual concern and care that applies to individual preferences, cultural expectations, and basic human rights.
This broadened understanding means we can put ourselves in another’s place, see life through their eyes, and have a better idea of what is right for them. With a concept of reciprocity we go beyond parroting an axiom to true appreciation for the most fundamental and virtuous of character traits: empathy. And empathy leads to respectful and compassionate conduct toward others.
This New Golden Rule of Empathy gives us these peace-building principles to live by:
- I would not like you to ignore my personal wishes and feelings, so I will honor your personal wishes and feelings and expect you to honor mine.
- My culture may have different beliefs and customs from yours, so I will respect your culture and expect you to respect mine.
- Regardless of my individual perspectives and preferences or the norms of my culture, all people have basic human rights, and I will honor these rights and expect others to do so for me.