Above you can see three heuristics used to explore the principle of reciprocity in human relationships. In the Christian Bible, Matthew (7:12) and Luke (6:31) attribute “The Golden Rule” to Jesus — but like many other gospel themes and teachings, the Golden Rule is much older than Jesus. See this wiki article to see how it existed in many cultures prior to Jesus’s supposed teaching. Who knows why John and Mark left out this apparently central teaching of Jesus? But their version of good reciprocity has lots of problems.
Of the three versions you see above, The Golden Rule has huge defects and can be used perversely. For instance, let’s say a Christian thinks:
“Oh, how I love my Lord Jesus! I am so thankful for my salvation. I hope the Devil never deceives me to stop believing and thus I will end up suffering forever in hell. If I were deceived though, I would hope people would torture me until I saw the errors of my way. For suffering in this life is nothing compared to eternal suffering in Hell.”
Well, you can see that using Jesus’ Golden Rule, the Christian could justify torturing nonbelievers — which has been done countless of times in the history of Christianity, right up until the 1800s, I think. Mind you, not all Christianities think this way, but this is a common perversion of this supposedly valuable heuristic.
Confucius (circa 500 BCE), and many others, stated a much more benign rule: “The Silver Rule”. But the Silver Rule also has its short-comings: it does not encourage actively doing good whereas the Golden Rule does.
So, to avoid the obvious pitfalls of both the Golden Rule, and the keep-to-myself Silver Rule, consider the later improved secular reciprocity rule: The Platinum Rule:
“Do unto others as they’d want done unto them.”
The Platinum Rule has its pitfalls too. What if they don’t want YOU doing these thing to them. Heck, all heuristics have their pitfalls. So, as I discussed the benefits of layering metaphors here, so layering heuristics can be valuable. So for me, I try to avoid the tempting and dangerous Golden Rule by instead holding both the Silver Rule and the Platinum Rule simultaneously in my mind when pondering my relationships with others. I avoid the Golden Rule.
Question to readers: What is your favorite reciprocity heuristic?