Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Platinum Rule

 You have no doubt heard of the Golden Rule. Found in religions around the world, and in Christianity attributed to Jesus, it is stated either negatively, "Do not do unto others what you would not have done to you, or else positively, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." While both express a core sentiment of empathy that is valuable, neither is really fully adequate. What we need instead is the Platinum Rule:

"Do unto others as they would have you do unto them."

The difference here should be clear. The Golden Rule calls on us to think about what we would want for ourselves, and treat others accordingly. The Platinum Rule instead acknowledges that people are different, and requires us to pay attention to what others truly want, instead of what we think they should want. Here are a couple of examples:

First, someone realizes that a teammate at work is motivated by praise. Even though the observer wouldn't want that sort of attention, they understand that the co-worker is not like them and appreciates a word of thanks or congratulations. And so, as appropriate, such recognition is given. 

Second, a high school student discovers that a classmate they've considered a friend since kindergarten is gay. Since the student is a devout Christian and believes homosexuality to be sinful, they begin making a focused effort on converting that classmate and 'saving them' from being gay. Feelings are hurt, possibly the school has to intervene to stop the attack, and a friendship has ended. The Christian student was only acting on the Golden Rule, assuming that if they were gay and didn't understand it to be a sin, and that they were on the road to hell 'without Jesus,' they would want someone to try to save them.

We must not center our own egos and identities in relation to other people. What we want and what someone else would have done to them could be very different things. No one needs to violate their conscience, but also no one should be imposing their personality traits and preferences on other people.

On a final note, a positive about the Platinum Rule that might be difficult for some is that sometimes a conversation is required to understand what someone truly wants for themselves. It is so much easier to silently imagine what someone else might want, and yet that easy path can lead to a great deal of trouble, particularly in a diverse, multicultural society. Living by the Platinum Rule demands more and better of us, and that is for the best.