Today’s Cognitive Daily post got me thinking a little about what it means to ask someone for help. The post itself is a bit of a rant about students asking us to write their research papers for them, but the advice really comes down to the golden rule: think about the blogger’s perspective before asking them for help on your homework.
I learned the golden rule as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But I couldn’t find that phrasing on bible.com. All the versions do seem to carry the same sentiment, one which isn’t unique to Christianity. I found this article offering, among others, Hindu, Confucian, and Taoist versions of the rule.
But is the golden rule all we need? The Religion Online article argues that the golden rule can’t stand on its own. After all, if I enjoyed having my hair yanked, I still shouldn’t go around yanking other people’s hair. The Religion Online article goes on (predictably) to claim that only with Jesus’ teachings can the golden rule be effectively applied. If we accept Jesus’ teachings about love, and so on, then we can apply the golden rule in the true spirit in which it was intended.
But do we need Jesus to apply the rule? He apparently didn’t even invent the thing. To me the key isn’t so much the introspection involved in the rule, but literally taking the other’s perspective. I don’t see this so much in Jesus’ teachings: the idea that I need not only to think of how I’d respond to someone else’s actions, but to imagine how that person would prefer to be treated. It doesn’t make for as nifty an aphorism, but it’s probably a better rule.
Should it be the only rule? Probably not — after all, some people have some pretty appalling ideas about how the world should run.
The amazing thing about the golden rule and similar principles is the huge number of situations in which they can be applied. But we still need lots of other rules, including plenty that can’t be found in the Bible.