Do you like it when people are mean to you? Do you ever feel bad if you’re left out of a game at recess? No one likes it when their feelings get hurt. But have you ever WONDERed whether your own actions make others feel the same way?

You may have learned from your parents that you should always treat others in the same way that you would like to be treated. That’s called the Golden Rule.

It’s also sometimes called the ethic of reciprocity. Reciprocity means acting in a way that’s cooperative and benefits all who are involved.

The Golden Rule is sometimes stated in a negative way: don’t treat others in a way that you would not like to be treated. Either way, the message is the same. If you want to be treated a certain way, then treat others that same way. If you don’t want to be treated a certain way, then don’t treat others that way.

For example, you and a friend are going to have pizza for dinner. Your mom bakes a delicious pizza and cuts it into eight equal slices. How should you divide the pizza? If there are two of you, that means you should each get four slices. Of course, you can always choose to take five slices and leave three for your friend, if you’re really hungry. But what about your friend? How would you feel if your friend did the same thing? If you’d like an equal amount of pizza, then the Golden Rule holds that you should only take half of the slices.

Really simple, right? If you think about it, though, it’s obviously not as easy as it sounds. If everyone observed the Golden Rule, then there would be far fewer problems in the world today.

Although it’s not always easy to live up to, the Golden Rule is widely considered to be a universal principle. That means that people believe it should be applied by all people in all situations, regardless of nation, culture, race or any other factor. This belief appears in some form across many religions and philosophies, and it has been included as a fundamental moral value of some governments and the basis for many laws.

The actual term “Golden Rule” or “Golden Law” has been used since the late 17th century. But the belief was recorded far earlier in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (1580-1350 B.C.), and in practice probably goes back even farther.

Rather than merely abstaining from behaviors you yourself wouldn’t like, take positive steps to help others in ways that we ourselves would like to be helped. In many places, it’s part of being a good citizen and following the law.

40 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi there, Wonder Friend moms rock! We think you’re spot on; the Golden Rule is a great reminder for treating one another with kindness and respect. No one likes to feel left out or have their feelings hurt; it’s important to treat others the same way you’d like to be treated. Thanks for sharing your comment today! :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We enjoyed learning about the golden rule, we try to follow it everyday.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about Santa, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or even the North Pole.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s Class

    • Hello, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Tillman’s 4th grade class! HOORAY for WONDERing on this marvelous Monday! :-)

      Today’s Wonder reminded us how important it is to treat everyone with respect and kindness– we are so glad you shared your awesome comment with us. Keep up the great work of following the Golden Rule! We’re proud of you! We hope tomorrow’s Wonder isn’t too chilly! :-)

    • Welcome back to Wonderopolis, Wonder_girl_in_2013! We bet you’ve been having a great time, but we hope you’ve been busy WONDERing, too! Happy New Year, and we’re glad you’re back! :-)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Thank you for the great wonder today.
    We think tomorrow will be about Greenland, Black Lake, or even the North Pole.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

    • Thank you so much for WONDERing about the Golden Rule today, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class! We hope your Monday is marvelous, just like our day here at Wonderopolis! :-) Tomorrow’s Wonder is going to be great– we hope to see you then! :)

  3. Hello there. I’m in Mrs. Hess’ class. I think people help each other out for their life and respect others in the world!

    I think tomorrow’s Wonder is about Santa Claus in the North Pole and please write back! Thanks for your support!

    P.S. I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE!

    • Hi again, Kathy! HOORAY for WONDERing about the Golden Rule! You did a WONDERful job sharing your thoughts about treating others with respect; thanks for saying hello! See you tomorrow for our next Wonder! :-)

  4. Today’s wonder was great! I think the golden rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated, and that includes animals and bugs alike. Thank you for today’s wonder!! :) ;)

    • Hi there, Berkleigh! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! The Golden Rule applies to everyone, even animals! Great point! :-)

    • Thanks so very much, Chrissy! We’re so glad to hear that you enjoy your time at Wonderopolis– we’re lucky to have a great Wonder Friend like you, Chrissy! :-)

  5. The golden rule basically says to everyone to treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t treat others the way you want to be treated, you’re not going to get treated the way you want to be treated! I don’t get on Wonderopolis much, but i’m glad I got on today because this is easy, important and something everyone needs to answer. Great wonder Wonderopolis!! I’ll be on tomorrow for more great WONDERs!!

    Julzia_0413

    • We’re so glad you enjoyed this Wonder, Julzia_0413. Thanks for visiting us today, and WONDERing about the Golden Rule with us! HOORAY! :)

  6. I’m in Mrs. Hess’ class and we are the best class in rules and the we are the best and you are the best in the rules just like us. :-)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,
    As Miss Fleenor’s class, we are going to practice the Golden Rule by using teamwork, being respectful, following our PAWS procedures, working together, not bullying, being safe and helping other to be safe, and not having a negative attitude.

    • WOW, we are so very proud of our Wonder Friends in Miss Fleenor’s 5th Grade Class. You have all done a WONDERful job of thinking about the Golden Rule and your actions! Thanks for inspiring all of us, and Wonder Friends around the world; we will continue to treat others with respect and kindness! :)

    • Great point, Jusin! We think it’s called the Golden Rule because it teaches an invaluable lesson! We are so glad you made that connection! Way to go, Wonder Friend! :)

  8. We think the golden rule is a good thing because we agree it is important to treat others the way we would want to be treated. Is there more than one golden rule? Why do you think this rule is more “golden” than other rules?

    • We’re so happy our Wonder Friends in Ms. Fulenwider’s Class are here today! HOORAY! The Golden Rule is a great reminder to treat others with respect and kindness. We are so glad you shared your Wonder with us… can the Golden Rule be the ONLY rule? We think the Golden Rule shines because it is the foundation for all other rules… for example, your family or classroom may have a rule such as, “Please do not interrupt someone else when they are speaking.” This rule is a rule of respect– it’s disrespectful to interrupt another person, and that is why the rule exists.

      What do you think, Wonder Friends? :)

  9. Hi wonderopolis people, it’s me, Emma again. This video has a very good point. Hey I’m only about to be 11 and have really different features of treating people right. Lots of people say since they are———- this age means they don’t have to treat people right. Although that is not the case. Treating people is very important, it doesn’t matter how old you are it shouldn’t matter of how you treat people. We are all people that live on Earth so we have to act like that. This world is not for us to tear up, it’s for helping and caring so now is our time to show people that we care. Thanks wonderopolis your videos rock. I love you guys thanks and see you later.

    • We think you ROCK, Wonder Friend Emma! Thank you for sharing your super comment about how important it is to treat others with kindness and respect! No matter how old we are, it’s important that we are kind, respectful people. Thanks for reminding us of what we can do to keep the Golden Rule in our lives each day! :)

  10. I’LL ALWAYS REMEMBER FRIENDSHIP, HELPING PEOPLE, AND BEING CARING AND LOVING IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT. LIKE AT OUR SCHOOL WE HAVE THIS THING CALLED 26 ACTS OF KINDNESS WHICH IS VERY COOL AND IT GETS ME GOING FOR THE DAY ITS VERY COOL BECAUSE I LOVE HELPING PEOPLE AND TREATING THEM WITH RERSPECT. IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT. THEY ARE HUMANS JUST LIKE US. THANKS FOR LISTENING SEE YOU LATER.

    • We think you ROCK, Wonder Friend Emma! Thank you for sharing your super comment about how important it is to treat others with kindness and respect! No matter how old we are, it’s important that we are kind, respectful people. Thanks for reminding us of what we can do to keep the Golden Rule in our lives each day! Another great reminder of the Golden Rule is your 26 Acts of Kindness at school- what a SUPER way to think about kindness and love. :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is the Golden Rule?
  • What is reciprocity?
  • What are universal principles?

Wonder Gallery

Golden RuleVimeo Video

Try It Out

Are there really such things as universal truths — beliefs that are commonly accepted and serve as rules that guide mankind worldwide? Grab a friend or family member and try out one or more of the following activities to explore this concept:

  • What personal experience do you have with the Golden Rule? Can you think of a time when you felt left out or excluded by the behavior of others? How do you wish you had been treated in those situations? Can you think of any times when others might have been hurt by your actions? What could you have done differently in those situations?
  • If the Golden Rule is a universal truth, what guidelines should flow from that truth? Can you come up with two lists: things to do and things not to do? If you’re following the Golden Rule, what things should you DO? On the other hand, what things should you NOT do? Try to come up with a list of 10 things for each!
  • Discuss the idea of universal truths with friends and family members and together come up with a list of possible universal truths (other than the Golden Rule). Are there universal or absolute truths in science? How about mathematics or language? Talk with family and friends about what makes a belief universal and how it might affect you on a daily basis. Share your discoveries and ideas with us on Facebook — we’re interested in hearing your thoughts.

Still Wondering

Can you finish ReadWriteThink’s The Good, the Bad, and the Nice: Crossword Puzzle? The answer for each clue is a synonym for good, bad or nice that describes the person, thing or object in the clue.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes you on a trip way up north!

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