Even Jewish kids like me were once urged to follow the Golden Rule. You know: Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. The idea made so much ethical sense that it went beyond its religion of origin. In fact, someone once gave me a sheet that included a kind of negative Golden Rule, i.e., don’t do to others what you would not want done to you. The Silver Rule?! According to this authoritative looking piece of paper, said version could be found in umpteen other religious traditions outside Christianity. But whether in the positive or negative form, this advice has an important drawback. Let me explain...
Here’s an example from my past. Years ago, I worked for a nonprofit homeless network in Hawaii, one which is still in business. The founder, since passed, was a former high-fashion model who stood at 5’11” in her stocking feet. She had once been a struggling single mom who was given significant, unexpected help by someone whom she always considered an angel. Now the wife of a Lutheran pastor, she wanted give back. I had become the development director of her Angel Network. On a meeting with potential funders, I thought it was my job to tell the organization’s charismatic founding story. Wrong! I don’t remember if we received the requested funds or not. What I do remember was my boss telling me after the meeting in no uncertain terms that that particular story was hers to tell, not mine. Here I thought I was being helpful when in fact I now know that I was mansplaining. My unexamined assumption was that, with my background as an experienced fundraiser, I could tell her story better than she could.
Why is this an example of my quibble with the Golden Rule? Fair enough. In my case, I would have been delighted if someone, especially a professional in the field, had helped me out in this way. After all, it was that person’s job. Yet what I did was in fact wrong. So instead, I’d like to propose a Platinum Rule. To wit: Do unto others as they want to be done onto.” Why? Because folks differ. In my case, for example, I’m deathly allergic to penicillin. So, the shot that cured you could kill me. So why not join me in trying to follow the Platinum Rule? It’s not only good ethics, but it can do wonders for one’s interpersonal relations. By the way, I did keep my job and managed to raise decent funds but never again did I tell my boss’s story.