Scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of using the Golden Rule as an antidote to aggression and changing school culture for the better.

The Golden Rule presents a simple solution for social conflict, aggression, and dealing with difficult people—and it works. Every religion and ethical system in history teaches a form of the Golden Rule, making it the ultimate, all-encompassing rule of morality.

Numerous ways exist to express the Golden Rule:

  • Love thy neighbor as thyself.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to others.
  • Be nice to people, even when they are mean to you.

When we understand the rule’s true purpose and meaning, we understand its revolutionary power. Aristotle, who lived 2,400 years ago, taught the Golden Rule. He proved that it’s the best way to live our lives and explained that if everyone lived according to the Golden Rule, humanity could live together without the need for governmental authority.

Think about it—what would life be like for you if your worst enemy treated you like a friend? They wouldn’t be your enemy any longer. How would your attitude towards life change? Wouldn’t you rather live in this kind of world rather than one defined by retribution? And isn’t this the kind of environment you’d like to create for your students?

The Golden Rule is counterintuitive. People tend to think that if we need to be even meaner to people when they are mean to us or they will continue to be mean. But human relationships actually work best the other way around. But the Golden Rule needs to be explained logically and scientifically and demonstrated in real life in order to convince people that it works.

Human beings are social creatures. Social creatures are programmed for what social scientist call the Law of Reciprocity. This means that we treat others the way they treat us. If you think about it, you’ll realize we’re all programmed for reciprocity.

When someone is nice to you, do you feel like being mean back? Of course not. You feel like being nice back. And when someone is mean to you, do you feel like being nice back? Probably not.

We’re all like that. No one had to teach this to us or we wouldn’t respond the same way.

Reciprocity is our default mode because it works in nature. If we live in nature and you are nice to me, it makes sense to be nice back. It will be good for both of us. But if you are mean to me, you may be trying to eat me for dinner. If I can’t escape, I had better be even meaner to you than you are to me or you’ll end up destroying me.

But we don’t live in nature. In civilization we have the rule of law and everyone understands there are consequences if we don’t follow it. We are not allowed to injure or kill each other, no matter how angry we may become. l can get arrested if I injure or kill you. So, in civilization we don’t need to be as afraid of each other as we are in nature.

If I live by reciprocity, I have no control over our relationship. I put you in control.  If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice back and we may become friends. If you’re mean to me, I’ll be mean back and we’ll certainly won’t become friends.

The Golden Rule puts me in charge. I tell myself, “I don’t care how you treat me. I’m going to be nice to you even if you’re awful to me, because how long can you continue being awful to me when I am always nice. Before long, you’ll start being nicer because you’re also programmed for reciprocity—to treat me the way I treat you.

The Golden Rule is the ultimate empowerment. It puts us in control of our relationships.

The Golden Rule doesn’t mean we have to give everyone everything they want. I can be hurting you by giving you everything you want. I can be spoiling you and preventing you from developing independence. I have to say no to you sometimes, but I’ll do so nicely, like I’m talking to a friend.

The Golden Rule doesn’t mean we have to let people abuse us or injure us. We must protect ourselves and stop people from doing bad things, but it’s not because we hate them. It’s because we love them and need to stop them from hurting people.

Education is a trickle-down process. It starts from the top, the school administrator, and goes down to the staff and then the students. We are the models for them. If we are angry and vindictive towards our students and colleagues, our students also learn to be angry and vindictive towards us and each other. The best way to teach them to live by the Golden Rule is for us to live by it. We need to be nice to people even when they are mean to us, and the entire school environment will automatically improve.

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