Practicing Cultural Humility: The Golden Rule

Growing up, I was always told, “Treat everyone like you want to be treated!” It’s quite a beautiful phrase because youth respond by treating eachother with respect: They act more curteous, they take turns, and they share their toys.

The Golden Rule or law of reciprocity is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself. It is a maxim of altruism seen in many religions and cultures.

Things change as we grow up. We learned a more specific version of respect from our parents. Should the guest help clean up after dinner? What if the guest offers to help and we say no, should they insist and help? Should guests make themselves at home once they enter your house, or must we invite them to sit down. Things might be different than what we’re used to, in another person’s home.

My grandma will always offer me food, and bring it to me after I say ‘no thank you’. This is a Persian norm called ‘Taarof’. She also won’t let me clean the table up. Other cultures are different. I’ve been to dinner at my friend’s house, who expects me to clean up, even if they say they don’t want help.

We need to broaden our  minds to transform “treat everyone like you want ot be treated,” to “make efforts to understand others the way you want to be understood”. This is the culturally humble version of the Golden Rule.