The ‘golden rule’ is something we are all familiar with but perhaps are unaware of its name. It exists to provide harmony, a tool to direct people towards positive outcomes and enhanced happiness for those who give and those who receive. It can be just a simple gesture, such as a smile, or something more involved. But whatever it is, it is essential that you know that the receiver will appreciate and welcome it.
‘Treating others the way you want to be treated’ is a maxim taught in most religions and cultures; the golden rule is a way of expressing that how you treat others influences the way others treat you.
The golden rule is centred around empathy. Empathy is at the core of kindness, compassion, and understanding. Building the ability to understand and share the feelings of others is essential when looking at the way you treat people. If you are aware of how others react to you, instinctively, you will adjust how you behave. Whether negative or positive we need to acknowledge the impact of our actions on others and consider their well-being before we act.
The origins of the golden rule
The golden rule is a way of life that is widespread across the globe and throughout most languages and religions.
In fact, the principle of the golden rule appears to have been one of the earliest common requirements that our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors needed to live-by in order for them to live together. Sharing and caring was not natural – like most other top predators, the human reaction, for perhaps at least 200,000 years may have been similar to their ancestors – a case of survival of the fittest. It was the change to adopting the Golden Rule principle that meant humans were able to adapt and develop the communities which has led to the success of Homo sapiens.
One culture that summarises the golden rule is the ancient Egyptian, and the goddess Ma’at in particular. For over 2000 years, living according to the principles of the golden rule was a large influence of the contentment of the population of Ancient Egypt
Gradually, over more than a thousand years individual desire for power and greed abused the religion and created the situation where it appeared ridiculous to many.
One belief is that the golden rule enabled tribes to come together and then thrive – in terms of quality of life – only to suffer from those seeking selfishness and power which has, at least aggravated and is at the core, of many of today’s problems.
The golden rule is the principle by which many of the poorest people have some of the highest quality lives and is still the case in many traditional hunter-gatherer and native cultures.
An increase in mental health challenges
Everyone’s lives will have been deeply impacted by the pandemic and people will have had to adapt to the ‘new normal’. With mask wearing, social distancing, furlough, there have been a number of changes that have challenged our daily lives. 4 in 5 adults (84.2%) said they were worried about the impact that the coronavirus had on their lives, with 53.1% saying that it affected their well-being and 46.9% noting an increased level of anxiety. These numbers are not surprising when our only way to connect with others had been reduced overnight to virtual calls, Zoom quizzes, and group chats. 76.9% of people stated that keeping in touch with friends and family throughout the lockdown was the most effective way of coping with having to stay at home.
Supporting each other
On 12th April 2020, The Sunday Times reported that: ‘If one good thing comes out of this coronavirus crisis, it will be the greater sense of community and of the importance of being good neighbours and doing something for people who are struggling’ – in other words living a little closer to the principle of the golden rule. The pandemic demonstrated how numerous people care and share with, and for, each other, but also how societies are based on assets, both individual and national
Covid caused many people to reach out to those that they had not spoken to in a while. People were checking in on old friends, colleagues, relatives to make sure that they were doing okay during this difficult time. Not only that, but when someone was instructed to isolate due to having been in close contact with someone with coronavirus, or having contracted the disease itself, people were volunteering to do food runs and buy essentials, 1 in 4 had gone shopping or done tasks for their neighbours.
Communities came together to support their local businesses to help them through the pandemic and 53.8% of adults said they had checked in on neighbours who might need help at least once. The pandemic has put everyone in the same boat and the importance of the Golden Rule has been demonstrated through everyone’s behaviour and how people are looking out for their neighbours and local businesses.
Protecting ourselves and each other
When the pandemic hit, everyone went into a panic and emptied supermarkets of essential foods, sanitiser, and toilet roll. People’s concern with hygiene has increased with 88.9% of adults saying that they wash their hands with water and soap, or sanitiser, when they return home. 96.8% of adults have stated that they avoided physical contact with other people from outside their household. People are aware of the risks and how easily transmittable the virus is and are taking steps to ensure that they are keeping their distance from others to help prevent the spread.
Upon the lifting of restrictions on July 19th, 2021, 64% of adults have said that they are going to continue to wear masks in shops and on public transport and 90% feel that continuing to social distance will help to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The pandemic has not only helped to bring together local communities, but people are thinking about how their actions are impacting others and working hard to beat this virus in whatever way they can. Long may this continue.
Robin Cade is an author.