The Golden Rule is an ethic of reciprocity. As it is implicitly understood, the Golden Rule indicates positive action or inaction, that is, never do harm to another.
Through the ages, the Golden Rule has been expressed in various ways across cultures, nations, and religions. Here is a list of Golden Rule expressions from the ancient and the famous. Use these for inspiration, or just to prove an old idea is still relevant today.
At Golden Rule Now, I use a specific definition by Harry Gensler,
“Treat others as you would want to be treated in the same situation.”
Gensler’s phrase helps focus our effort on applying the rule.
Questions or thoughts? Send them over. The quotes with the most interest will be turned into future posts.
Golden Rule Through the Ages:
“Zi Gong asked, saying, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?”
The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word?” – Confucius
Zi Gong asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”
The Master replied: “How about ‘shu’ [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?” – Confucius, Analects XV.25. (longer version).
Chung-king asked, “What is love?”
The Master said: Without the door to behave as though a great guest were come; to treat the people as though we tendered the high sacrifice; not to do unto others what we would not they should do unto us; to breed no wrongs in the state and breed no wrongs in the home.” – Confucius. Harvard Classics, Vol. 44, Sacred Writings 1.
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.- T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien Taoism
That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another. – The Eloquent Peasant, Ancient Egypt.
Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him. – Pitticus c. 640-568 BC.
Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing. – Thales 624 – 546 BC
What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. – Sextus the Pythagorean.
Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others. – Isocrates 436-338 BC
What thou avoidest suffering thyself seek not to impose on others. – Epictetus
It has been shown that to injure anyone is never just anywhere. – Socrates, in Plato’s Republic.
One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him. – Plato’s Socrates (Crito, 49c)
It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing “neither to harm nor be harmed”), and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life. – Epicurus
“My brother ought to have treated me thus.” True: but he must see to that. However he may treat me, I must deal rightly by him. This is what lies with me, what none can hinder. – Epictetus, 97. Golden Sayings.
Sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas: Use what is yours in a way that you don’t harm another’s. – Latin legal principle. (Of course, this is only half of the Golden Rule and Crassus used it effectively.)
Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself. - Zoroaster, Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29.
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. – Buddha, Udanavarga 5:18.
Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill. – Buddha.
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter. – Buddha, Dhammapeada, 10.
Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill. – Buddha, Sutta Nipata, 705.
One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires. – Brihaspati, Mahabharata. Hinduism.
Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion. – Suman Suttam , verse 150. Jainism
Killing a living being is killing one’s own self; showing compassion to a living being is showing compassion to oneself. He who desires his own good, should avoid causing any harm to a living being.
—Suman Suttam , verse 151 Jainism
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. – Leviticus 19:18
Do not say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.” – Proverbs 24:28-29.
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn. – Hillel, Talmud Shabbat 31a.
In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” Matthew 7:12.
Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. Luke 6:31.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? Luke 6, 33. Harvard Classics, Vol 44, Sacred Writings 1, pp. 369.
And to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mark 12:33.
“Woe to those… who, when they have to receive by measure from men, they demand exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.” – Qur’an, Surah 83.
“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
—An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 13 (p. 56)
The truly enlightened ones are those who neither incite fear in others nor fear anyone themselves. – Guru Granth Sahib, p.1427, Slok, tr. Patwant Singh. Sikhism
And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for they neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself. – Bahai
So act as to treat humanity whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as a means only. – Immanuel Kant. Harvard Classics, Vol 32. pp. 339.
Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction. – Immanuel Kant.
We might come closer to balancing the Budget if all of us lived closer to the Commandments and the Golden Rule. – Ronald Reagan
Treat others as you would want to be treated in the same situation. – Henry Gensler.
If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be useful. – William Morris
If we don’t manage to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be, as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation.” — Karen Armstrong Her TED Talk.
The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatsoever unless you realize that it’s your move! – Dr. Frank Crane
The golden rule for every business man is this: Put yourself in your customer’s place. — Orison Swett Marden.
We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life. – Edwin Markham
To keep the Golden Rule we must put ourselves in other people’s places, but to do that consists in, and depends upon, picturing ourselves in their places. – Harry Emerson Fosdick.
Man is a gregarious animal and much more so in his mind than in his body. A golden rule; judge men not by their opinions, but by what their opinions have made of them. – G.C. Lichtenberg
The golden rule is that there are no golden rules. – George Bernard Shaw. (I completely disagree with this. Shaw often said such witticisms. He’s quotable, and, like he notes here, I don’t follow a rule with total blind adherence).
Do not do unto others as you would they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same. – Bernard Shaw (but this goes back to “ask first rule” similar to many sex therapists: ask what they like, do that, repeat.” Quoted in A Preface to Politics, Walter Lippmann.
Absolutely speaking, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you is by no means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not to have any rule at all in such a case. – Henry David Thoreau.
Until man works the best Rule, he never works his best…the universe is only waiting for him to learn to work it. [T]hose who think the Golden Rule impractical, themselves impracticals—for civilization.
American Law Review, Volume 49, 1915. Little, Brown & Co.
Practicing the Golden Rule is not a sacrifice; it is an investment. – unknown.
**I have done my best to provide correct citations and links whenever possible. I have quoted from reputable sources and in fair use (or according to the license). If you find new quotations or have better links, please send them to me: goldenrule [at] goldenrulenow.com.