Human flourishing and happiness are synonymous. One is what we mean by the other. So, what kind of person are you called to become if the goal is happiness, which I believe it is? The answer is, an ethical person.

The road to happiness lies in living a virtuous life. Sometimes this requires the suppression of immediate personal satisfaction or happiness. This is in service of a larger goal, one which if achieved leads to happiness in the deepest sense.

Most religions have a key commandment that provides a guideline for living and, remarkably, those guidelines are consistent across borders. They place good, decent and ethical human relations squarely at the center of things.

• Confucianism: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

• Hinduism: Do not do to others what would cause you pain if done to you.

• Jainism: One should treat all beings as he himself would be treated.

• Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to others.

• Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.

• Sikhism: As you think of yourself, so think of others.

• Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good that refrains from doing to another whatever is not good for itself.

• Humanism: Act so as to bring out the best in others, thereby bringing out the best in yourself.

• Islam: No one is a believer until you desire for your sister or brother that which you desire for yourself. 

• Christianity: Do to others whatever you would have done to you.

These Golden Rules, while different in their emphasis, are rules in so far as they orient behavior and lay out obligations, but they are not rules for particular situations. They are guidelines that are more like pointers on a compass or lines on a map. When you encounter these master rules, you are much like the civil engineer who has learned how to build bridges in general but must still figure out how to build this particular bridge in this particular place given the unique set of circumstances that the terrain presents. Whatever bridge is finally built must conform to engineering standards, no matter how innovative. What is the underlying standard of ethics, whatever the unique application? It is a concern for treating others compassionately and fairly. Each of the Golden Rules addresses the inherent equality of all human beings and the need to treat them with the same consideration that you demand for yourself.

The key guidelines make two psychological assumptions about human nature: that humans are capable of putting themselves in someone else's place and that they want to be treated compassionately and fairly. Since both assumptions are found consistently across cultures, it is reasonable to say that despite the very real differences that exist from place to place and from era to era, they nevertheless address a fundamental and universal truth.

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