The "Golden Rule" is variously quoted as either "you shall love your neighbor as yourself,"3 or else "that you love one another,"4 or even to "love your enemies,"5 or as more commonly expressed in the vernacular, "do as you would be done by,"6 or many similar expressions.7 It boils down to a commandment to have feelings for other members of society, promoting the common good by promoting what is good for others as well as yourself. "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; . . . "8 is the classic statement that all individuals are interdependent with one another. The concluding thought of that same quotation is also a classic: "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."9 Thus, when you are hurtful to another, even to the point of mere discourtesy to another, you are to some extent being hurtful and/or discourteous to yourself. If you would not wish to be treated that way yourself, the first step to take is to not treat others with discourtesy, disrespect, or other forms of ill will. Many modern thinkers believe that Jesus Christ went too far in commanding his followers to "turn the other cheek"10 when assaulted. If an evil individual knows that this is your rule, you have thereby given the assailant license to assault you, the thief license to steal from you, and all other criminals free license to ply their respective trades upon you. It is clearly wrong to encourage criminal conduct by effectively saying "come and get it." But so far as you do not encourage criminal conduct, it is clearly proper to "love" the criminal and through that love, attempt to reform the criminal.11 But any attempts at reform should clearly be with "open eyes," even as those attempts should also be without prejudice, not presuming that the criminal will continue criminal conduct if confronted with the error of that conduct and a rational alternative. Just remember that if you openly tempt the known weakling,12 you have contributed to any resulting bad conduct. Accordingly, even the Golden Rule has rational limitations, and like all moral rules, it must be applied in context. One great personal insight of mine was to realize that this so-called "Golden Rule" is basically an expression of Utility, in that both lead to some amount of greater happiness for the individual(s) involved and/or for society as a whole. Seen in this manner, this so-called Golden Rule may be seen as a simple restatement of the Utilitarian Dogma. However, because of its long history and its relevance to a large number of quite different previous cultures, I have retained it as a separately stated rule, in spite of its clear inclusion within the higher level dogma.
3 Leviticus 19:18; See also, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, and Galatians 5:14.
4 John 13:34; See also, John 15:12, John 15:17, Romans 12:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Hebrews 13:1, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 2:17, 1 Peter 3:8, 2 Peter 1:7, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:21, and 2 John 5.
5 Matthew 5:44; See also, Luke 6:27, and Luke 6:35.
6 For example, Matthew 7, verse 12 (see also, Luke 6:31), which in the American Revised Standard Version is translated as: "Therefore whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." The concept is widely held, even among other cultures. For example, Confucius is cited as the source for "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." (The Confucian Analects, Book 15, verse 23.) Aristotle felt similarly, holding that "We should behave to our friends as we should wish our friends to behave to us." (From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book V, Section 21.)
7 The best known recent example would be the plea of Rodney King during the Los Angeles riots in 1992: "Can't we all just get along?"
8 John Donne [1572-1631], Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions , number 17. See Francis Bacon [1561-1626], Essays , Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature, "If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them." See also, Romans, 14:7.
9 John Donne [1572-1631], Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions , number 17. In the time of Donne, there was little in the way of communications outside of the church bells ringing. If you heard a bell toll, the usual explanation was that someone had died.
10 Matthew 5, verses 39-42. See also, Luke 6:29-30, and 1 Corinthians 6:7.
11 In the time of Jesus, and even up to the present, Jews were heavily into retribution, taking the Old Testament "eye for an eye" commandment to excess, believing that two non-Jewish eyes for one Jewish eye is a better retribution. Thus, it would certainly seem that the true intent of the "turn the other cheek" commandment would be to avoid excessive retribution, and instead of hating your enemy enough to exact substantial retribution, "love your enemy" and institute attempts at reforming your enemy. So much of what Jesus Christ is quoted as saying in the Christian Bible is not to be take literally, but is to be construed as allegory or other forms of moral teaching, that it clearly seems the "turn the other cheek" commandment cannot truly be intended to mean exactly what it says. Even if the words were intended to mean exactly what they say, it would appear to be more of an attempt by Jesus to move Jews more towards the intention of the original commandment from God, to "love your neighbor as yourself," even when your neighbor is your enemy, or is behaving badly towards you. Thus, it would seem that "turn the other cheek" is more a form of the classic negotiating strategy of setting a goal that is about twice what you really intend and then being quite satisfied with receiving "half" of what you asked for, which is all that you really wanted in the first place.
12 "Tempt not a desperate man." Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Scene 3, Line 59.
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