We often hear “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. This is a selfish command. It directs you to treat others based on your desires. This leads you to believe that they want the exact things you want. It guides you to act with others based on your beliefs without consideration of theirs.
Do not seek to impose on others. Our “golden rule” is as follows:
Treat others as they want you to treat them.
It’s essential that we recognize the rights of others to have different beliefs and desires as we do. We respect both cultural and individual differences and accommodate them to the best of our abilities. You do not need to ignore your own beliefs in preference to others. Suppose a man is gravely ill and is suffering. He asks you to end his misery by bringing an end to his life. You hold a strong personal conviction against taking the life of another human. In this example, it’s unreasonable to treat him as he wants you to treat him.
Suppose again that you see an elderly man who is struggling to carry a burden. You would want someone to help you in this situation. But you also know that it’s extremely important for this man that he be able to carry his burdens without interference unless he specifically asks for help. You should place his desires for autonomy over your intrinsic desire to provide Compassion. In this case, true Compassion is to respect his interests. You may ask him if he needs help, but do not insist on giving it.
When living by the Virtues, the actions we choose must take into consideration the desires and interests of the others impacted by our decisions.