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Reciprocity And The Golden Rule

Updated on August 17, 2010

The Golden Rule is said to be based on reciprocity. The word reciprocal is derived from the Latin word 'reciprocus' meaning going backward and forward. When it comes to the Golden Rule I find that I have been doing exactly that and the conclusion I have come to is that it doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is simply not possible unless and until you have examined an upgraded that which you do unto yourself.

Nature, relationships, commerce, are all based on exchange. That is it is reciprocal, something is recieved and something is given (notice it is based on going backward and forward - in and out). Our bodies take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide and the plant life around us take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. It is a natural exchange and it is a reciprocation that sustains life.  What I do not have, I cannot give.

A Gold Zone You Equals A Gold Zone Planet
A Gold Zone You Equals A Gold Zone Planet

The common denominator in all religions around the globe besides the belief in a Supreme Being is that each religion has, at it's foundation, the Golden Rule. Buddhism has "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." In Christianity it is stated, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them." Confucianism is "Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you." The Golden Rule of Islam is, "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself." And on it goes throughout the world's religions, each one ascribing to the law of reciprocity, the Golden Rule.

Every Problem Presents A Golden Opportunity For A New Rule
Every Problem Presents A Golden Opportunity For A New Rule

Every rule every made throughout history to our present time has been made as a result of a problem encountered by mankind. Before cars were invented there were no traffic regulations, no 'rules of the road'. As the automobile became the prevalent means of getting about problems were created, traffic problems. In a response to those problems, traffic rules were made and implemented with the result being that in this century of millions of vehicles capable of traveling at ever increasing speeds we have an abundance of traffic laws. For all those laws, without each and every driver behind the wheel of each and every vehicle applying the Golden Rule all the traffic regulations in the world cannot ensure our roads are safe to travel.

Develop A Golden Outlook
Develop A Golden Outlook

The Golden Rule as I see it was created for the same reason every other rule has ever been created. There was a problem, the peoples of the day were given to looting, plundering, pillaging and invading. Who wants to put up with that? Solution? Make a rule, and make it a Golden One. Did it solve the problem? No, it did not. Does the problem still exist? Yes, it does. Firstly it is only the religions, Christianity and Islam who use the word 'man' where religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism use the word 'others'.  Historically both Christianity and Islam could have used a little attitude adjustment when it comes to women, children, plants, animals and the environment at large rather than leaving them at the mercy of 'man' or the lack thereof. It is of note that in the present day it is only the extremes of these two religions that cling to the concept that women and children are mere chattel.  However, the changes that have taken place in the attitudes have only done so in the last century and the residual effects of the wording are still felt today.  

The second problem I have with the Golden Rule is that in not doing to others what you would not like done to yourself one is left guessing at what the other may or may not like. If you do onto others what you like to have done to you then you are at risk of trespassing. My idea of heaven may well be the idea of hell to another.

The way I see it the Golden Rule needs to be revised and the sooner the better. To my eyes it would be much better stated as "Do unto me that which I would have others do unto me." Or, I do unto self as I would have others do unto me."  Another alternative is to simply go with the Golden Rule of the First Nations Peoples, "Respect for all life is the foundation."

You Are Worth More Than Gold
You Are Worth More Than Gold

Before you ridge on the word change consider this, as you sit in your seat on any airplane in the world listening to the flight attendant go through the instructions to the passengers prior to take-off what do they tell you about the oxygen mask? They tell you to put your mask on first before assisting another. Why? The answer is simple common sense, if you expire due to a lack of oxygen your fellow passenger who is struggling with their oxygen mask will not receive the benefit of your assistance.   You will not be able to apply the Golden Rule and do unto the other as you would have done unto you because you will have moved off the mortal coil.  So much for the Golden Rule.

Does it not stand to reason then that in your doing unto self what you would have others do unto you that you will actually be able to apply what should be demoted to the Silver Rule?  What would the consequences be if you respected yourself first, appreciated yourself first, tolerated yourself first, believed in yourself first and loved yourself first.  Would you not then find yourself better able to respect, appreciate, tolerate, believe in and love others?  Methinks you would.  How can you possible give something that you do not first possess?  You cannot. 

The Golden Question
The Golden Question

When my oldest daughter was seven and her younger brother was four years old I asked each of them this question, "If I could give you anything you wanted no matter how much it cost, what is it that you would want?" I was actually expecting that their answers would most likely be related to something that had caught their eye in a toy store or on the television. Neither of them asked for a toy and neither of them asked for all the chocolate cake in the world or an endless supply of ice cream.

My daughter answered in one word, "Respect." Her brother also answered the question with one word, "Understanding". Having had neither respect nor understanding when I was a child, this lack had followed me into my adult life. In order for me to give my children what they each asked for I had no choice but to involve myself in a thorough self-examination.  If my daughter wanted to have respect then I had to have self-respect for if I could not respect myself how could I possibly be her role model? How could I teach her to gain respect if I myself did not know how? There was nothing for it but to learn. In order to do anything you first have to be and then and only then can you have.

Fulfilling my son's answer, "Understanding", was no easier an undertaking. The four year old's answer to my question, "If I could give you anything...." plunged me in to a journey of self-discovery from which I have yet to emerge.  Again, I have to be willing to understand, to learn and to know before I can impart understanding or be understanding of another.  I must have the ability to comprehend, grasp and to realize.  I have to have the ability to deal with life and with people.  The word understand is a derived from Old English; to stand among, to observe, to get the idea of, to know.  

There are many times through this journey that I have had reason to wish they asked me for a Barbie House and a giant Transformer and many more times that I have been blessed and grateful for the fact that they did not.

Golden Foundation Equals Golden Opportunity
Golden Foundation Equals Golden Opportunity

According to our indigenous peoples "Respect for all life is the foundation."  You are the foundation for your life.  The foundation, the part that the other parts rest on for support.  It is only when you breath in that you can breath out.  It is only through your taking in that breath of life that you can reciprocate. 

Every golden nugget of wisdom, knowledge, experience, that you take in you are free to share with others as you so choose.  But you have to take it on board first. 

So collect your golden nuggets, build your foundation, grow your self worth and hold yourself in esteem in order that you may inspire others to do the same.

What would be the consequences if your new Golden Rule was "I do unto myself as I

What could the consequences be if your Golden Rule was I do unto self as I would have others do unto me?"

It is possible that the Pot Of Gold you find at the end of your rainbow just may well be

Y our

O wn

U niverse

When YOU are at your best you naturally give your best to others and in your so doing each and every time you connect with another or others a Golden Moment is created.

Make Golden Connections
Make Golden Connections

You cannot visit a thing upon yourself without visiting it upon all those whom you connect with. If you make less or nothing of yourself you have less or nothing to give others.

In your making more of yourself there is more YOU to share and to give - freely and without restraint.

Your Comments Are Worth Their Weight In Gold

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    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Society will not have peace until it's members have are at peace with themselves neither will it have harmony or tolerance until each is in harmony and tolerant of self. You cannot do unto another that which you do not do unto self. And to give respect to another when you have no self respect is to give not respect but subservience - slavish politeness and obedience - that is not peace.

    • ExpandYourMind profile image


      8 years ago from Midwest USA

      Interesting . . . particularly the link that all demoninations have. Respect, do into others, do no harm, reciprocation -- all hallmarks to a peaceful society.

    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank you both. Merlin, there was a time on this planet where it was not a rule but a way of life. As for "Why have we forgotten it?" - We forget because we have commanded ourselves to forget with those commands being along the lines of "It didn't happen." "I can't remember any of it." "I don't know." "I don't want to know." And so on it goes. Self-generated they are and they effectively block out vast areas of our lives along with many of our innate abilities. Methinks it has something to do with that fearsome word - responsibility. That combined with our dumping a gratitude attitude in favour of entitlement. It is interesting that indigenous peoples did not forget, did take responsibility and did feel and express gratitude - they were labeled heathens and forced to abandon these attributes by those who 'saved' them.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      I've gone with the premise always that the only person I can change is me. If you think of it that way, the only way you can go is up! Maximize your potential and all that. Very well written (as always)!

    • Merlin Fraser profile image

      Merlin Fraser 

      8 years ago from Cotswold Hills

      It's such a wonderful rule and seems to be the cornerstone of so many cultures isn't it a pity it is not ahered to more often ?

      I can understand why so many religious leaders may have wanted this rule above so many to be in their teachings

      It was taught to me in school as I'm sure so many others were and in so many languages...

      Why have we forgotten it ? Or is it just lack of practice ?

    • raisingme profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Wow Benny did you ever get here fast - impressive. If you have difficulty making more of yourself do so in a spirit of play - makes it much easier! Thank you so much for your visit and your comment. The other thing this wording does for me is that when someone is demanding an 'orange' from me and I know that I only have an 'apple' to give I do not agonize over not being able to give another what I do not have to give. That being said if I know where the guy who has oranges is I will point the other in the right direction!

    • BennyTheWriter profile image


      8 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

      Very nice hub. I like your addition to the Golden Rule; it really enhances one's understanding and practical knowledge of it. "Making more of myself" has always been one of the hardest things for me to do, so what you've written here is a nice push in the right direction. It only makes sense that the more fulfilled a person is, the more he or she is able to add value to other people's lives.


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