A young man who had a job as a telemarketer became interested in the study of the golden rule: Do to others as you want others to do to you. At work he found one assignment to be particularly manipulative; he went to his supervisor and explained his new interest in this moral principle, then he told her that he was withdrawing from this assignment. He expected to be fired. But his supervisor supported him in his decision, and she asked him to come back and tell her if he ever found another assignment to be unfair.
Once we have begun living the truth and walking in beauty, we have already begun to participate in divine goodness. When we are at our best, we are motivated to do our duty, all things considered, in morally active living. Sometimes we have a clear intuition of what we are to do. The intuition is linked to motivation that is true, beautiful, and good; and we act on that motivation, blending wise responsibility and loving spontaneity.
When we do not know what to do, we can seek moral wisdom. If we seek it, we can find a surprising amount of guidance from the breadth and depth of moral wisdom associated with the world’s most widespread moral principle. Differently stated and interpreted in various cultures, it is known as the golden rule: Do to others as you want others to do to you.
But often we do not live at a moral level that satisfies the true self, the deeper self. We may be caught up in gratifying material emotions; or we may not know how to approach moral questions; or we may be turned away from righteous living by moralistic religious teaching that exaggerates guilt and arouses fear. Whatever the reason, persons may miss out on the satisfactions of sharpening their moral intuition and doing good to others.
In response, we can see in persons of excellent character the virtues of great decision and social service. Their virtues grow from self-forgetting immersion in pursuing values. Their way of living shows us three levels of meaning in the golden rule: (1) it is a rule of sympathy, treat others with consideration for their feelings, as you want others to treat you. (2) It is a rule of reason: treat others in the light of scientific and moral reason, as you want others to treat you. And (3) the golden rule is the principle of the practice of the family of God: treat others as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God, as you want others to treat you. When morally active living reflects these virtues and levels of meaning, it becomes a soul-satisfying participation in divine goodness.