Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. I think that living by the silver rule may help all of us to live by this statement by Gandhi.
In Christianity there is a saying Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In the Jewish tradition the saying is taught Do not do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you.
Wikipedia calls this the ethic of reciprocity and does not apply these as Christian and Jewish but rather calls them the golden rule (the positive form) and the silver rule (the negative form). This concept is also found in many philosophies including Egyptian and Greek.
I am more familiar with the golden rule. However, of late, I have been thinking that the latter rule may be more efficacious. Here is why: If you need to do unto others all that you would like done to you that may be a long list however it seems to be more limiting and helpful as a boundary to simply not do unto others what you would not like done to you. That is a smaller, clearer list; easier to follow and act on decisively.
If you consider all the things we want versus the things we do not want – most of us would agree on the big things we do not want and therefore should not do to others. The list is limiting and defining of reasonable, social behavior.
I find the application of a set of negative rights as an interesting debate. At present that is how our Constitution is written.
As an application to parenting it is a useful way to set up social structure for our children; the silver rule seems to be easier to grasp for children – they are pretty clear about what they do not want others to do to them.
Beginning in early childhood, identifying how to relate with one’s peers via this silver rule allows for the development of empathy and an internal moral structure. It also teaches mindfulness; they have to consider the outcome of their actions and whether they would like it done to them. It is a great tool for increasing and teaching mindfulness.
Of course for adolescents and adults it can be an internal process of evaluating our behavior based on this. And allowing us to change aspects of our behavior which do not conform. It requires Being mindful and acting in the present moment with a focus on the figure/ground of a situation.
By focusing on this we can better apply basic limits, and have a more empathic, socially supportive, style of being in the world.
I think this application of the silver rule helps to define how to deal with the line where individual needs and group needs meet. This is one of the trickiest aspects of living in groups. Where do my rights to something get overridden by the group right to something or the other’s right to something? Helping our children negotiate this is one of our important tasks as parents.
Being mindful in the application of this rule helps to teach empathy and increases a person’s capacity to see figure/ground perspective.
See you tomorrow.