What Is the Difference Between the Silver Rule and the Golden Rule?

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Some variation of the golden rule is a fundamental aspect of almost every major world religion, and the written concept itself is more than four thousand years old. The silver rule shares many similarities with the golden rule and is almost as old, although the two concepts do have some basic differences.

1 The Golden Rule

The golden rule is a basic moral directive that generally is phrased as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Many similar variations on this phrase are used. Most interpret this rule to mean people should treat others with the kindness, respect and consideration most individuals tend to expect for themselves. The golden rule is the basic foundation for many human-rights philosophies, and is associated with many world religions.

2 The Silver Rule

The silver rule is a variation and somewhat an inversion of the golden rule. The silver rule states "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you." The silver rule has its own deficiencies, as it only requires an individual not harm others, and does not ask that person to engage in positive behavior.

3 Differences Between the Golden and Silver Rules

The golden and silver rules should work in tandem, although the golden rule was conceived first, and many who know about the golden rule are not as aware of the existence of a silver rule. The golden rule is said to emphasize the positive duties of the individual, while the silver rule regulates negative behaviors.

4 History

The golden rule is essential to many different world religions, and endorsed by and associated with various religious figures, including Jesus Christ, to whom the popular phrasing is attributed in the New Testament of the Bible. However, the golden rule predates Christ. According to Siegfried Morenz's book "Egyptian Religion," one of the earliest examples of the rule dates more than a thousand years prior to the existence of Jesus to an ancient-Egyptian concept called Maat.

5 Criticisms

Famous thinkers and critics such as writer George Bernard Shaw have publicly criticized the golden and silver rules for their oversimplified nature and somewhat problematic implications. Critics are dissatisfied with the second part of the golden and silver rules, which seemingly assume anyone can know exactly how others do and do not wish to be treated. As Shaw states in his work "Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy," "Do not do unto others as you would that they would do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same."

Katherine Harder kicked off her writing career in 1999 in the San Antonio magazine "Xeriscapes." She's since worked many freelance gigs. Harder also ghostwrites for blogs and websites. She is the proud owner of a (surprisingly useful) Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.