I am not a believer in socially or culturally relative ethics. I believe that ethical standards are based on principles that are more absolute. There are behaviors that are wrong in all worlds and at all times. People smarter than I am disagree about this.
The ”golden rule” is a statement about ethical behavior that has widespread support across many religious traditions and cultures. Simply stated it enjoins a human to treat all other humans the way they want to be treated.
Most people who consider ethical behavior at all think of it in terms of the restraints it imposes on behavior. They see ethics in the same light as religious systems, intent on the negative aspects, focusing on what ethics or a religion tells them not to do, and what to avoid.
There are two related versions of this basic ethics that come from the Judeo-Christian tradition. – One says, ”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
– and the other, ”Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
These two are nearly identical. Interesting that the verbs in both versions are proactive and positive. Interesting that neither one tells us what not to do, but rather what to do.
Also of note is that neither says, ”Think kind thoughts about your neighbor…”.
Now ”doing” may involve thinking, but it doesn’t stop with thoughts alone, right? This has some implications a lot us haven’t fully considered.
What if we looked at the golden rule as a positive? What if each of us has the ability to knit the fabric of our social net more perfectly together? What if the simplicity of consistently, actively, doing good to your neighbor is the greatest possible thing you can do to change the world?