Should Christians follow the ‘Platinum rule’?

  • Question 189, from Ben, United Kingdom

    I have come across an interesting concept called the ‘Platinum rule’ which states “Treat others the way they want to be treated”. Advocates of it have said that the Golden rule presumes that all people are alike. However I can see that the “Platinum rule” allows for too much permissiveness and acceptance of some-things that ought not be accepted. I am curious as to a theological analysis of the “Platinum rule”, and its contrast to the Golden rule.

    The ‘Golden rule’ can be found in Matthew chapter 7, verse 12 and Luke chapter 6, verse 31, and is often referred to using the more traditional form  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It isn’t an exclusively Christian idea and can be found in almost every significant religious and philosophical system, including implicitly in the Jewish Torah.

    The ‘Platinum rule’ was coined in the 1970s by customer service experts, and refers to finding out how customers would like to be treated. Its transition into ethical decision-making would be interesting, however it presupposes that people actually know how they want to be treated and that it is possible to treat them that way.

    The platinum rule sounds like a good approach to relationships, but it would be interesting to see how it holds up in everyday life. If a person insists on being treated as if he is Napoleon, Emperor of France, should you do so? Or, should you intervene and get them psychiatric help? That’s a deliberately bizarre example, but it illustrates the key problem with the platinum rule; it is far more subjective than the golden rule.

    ‘Do unto others’ is, of course, only part of what Jesus is recorded as saying it in the gospels. In Luke chapter 6 it follows Jesus’ instruction to: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.” (verses 27-28) The Christian ethic outlined by Jesus is to actively seek to do good for other people, even if they are your enemy.  This command takes no account of that other person’s wishes; Christians are to love their enemies, regardless of how their enemies feel about that.

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    1. Leigh Mar 6

      As a Christian, and seasoned salesperson, who both knows her Bible well and has studied/used the Platinum rule successfully, like the Bible can be, you have taken this out of context.

      Truthfully, it sounds like you have not even read the book or listened to the DVD. I’ll give you a quick run down, if you have heard of Myers Briggs it is the same principle.

      If you are the kind of person that likes to read reviews, brochures, or the internet about cars and you go to buy one, a seasoned professional using the Platinum rule will take time the time to listen and will realize you are a “thinker”. “Thinkers” need lots of data to make their decisions, so a slick 5 minute presentation is likely to turn you off.

      As a Realtor I have used this sales process for years successfully and in fact “close” every sale. I work 1/2 as hard as most Realtors and make double the money, and I only work 9-5 Mon-Fri.

      Clients love me, refer more clients, and often repeat buy. They do it because they feel I’ve taken the time to listen, understand, and try to serve them in the way they process/think/learn/buy. Many become my friends. In fact, they often “look” out for clients to refer to me

      I use it so well in my personal life that I’m often overwhelmed by people coming to me for help and advice because they feel so heard, understood, and supported.

      As Christians, if we understood, learned, and practiced this skill we would be much better Christians. Using this skill encompasses the spiritual gifts of “mercy, helps, hospitality, and compassion”. It makes you a “people” magnet, a “fisher of men”.

      You should read the book before commenting on it

    2. Jon the freelance theologian Mar 6

      Thanks for the feedback and bringing the book to my attention. The answer was in response to the way the Platinum Rule was summarised in the question.

      There are some reasons to perhaps be cautious about using popular psychology techniques to ‘sell’ Christianity. One thing is it could be viewed as manipulation. Having said that, using something like this to build stronger relationships and meet people’s pastoral needs could be a very positive thing.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    3. Sherry Oct 25

      I agree with you, Jon, and feel something is amiss about the platinum rule. Some anti-Christian bloggers and people I know personally who don’t like Christians also, use the “platinum rule” as a trump card – see your “god”‘s rule is really pretty selfish. The humanistic “platinum rule” is so much better and selfless. Yet any thoughtful reading of Jesus’ words in the New Testament would show that is not the type of person Jesus is – selfishness isn’t part of his vocabulary. It’s not in any way shape or form what the “Golden Rule” means. Working on my own thoughtful response to those who use it in this way.

    4. Richard B Oct 16

           I don’t think that reading a particular book or listening to a particular lecture should be a prerequisite for expressing an opinion on the “Platinum Rule”; there is a plethora of articles, postings, discussions, etc. online describing it from just about every angle and interpretation possible.
           If I may, I would like to respectfully express my own opinion on the “Platinum Rule” and how it compares to the Golden Rule:
           The Golden Rule is not about forcing our specific personal preferences or tastes on anyone.  (No wine aficionado practicing the Golden Rule is going to knowingly offer alcohol to a teetotaler.  No child practicing the Golden Rule is going to give child-sized clothing as a gift to an adult.)   “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”  simply means that we should treat others with the same respect, courtesy, and consideration with which we ourselves would like to be treated.  Period.
           The problem with the so-called Platinum Rule is that it is essentially a blank check; it mandates that we honor the wishes of others no matter how reasonable  *or unreasonable*  they might be.  If a man wishes to use the ladies’ room then let him right in; never mind the wishes or feelings or privacy of those for whom the room was intended.  If a homosexual wishes to be called a “queer” then by all means call him a “queer,” even though millions of people consider *ANY* such use of that word in that context to be extremely offensive and insulting.  The “Platinum Rule” inevitably leads to double standards and to systems of equality where some people are a lot more equal than others.  This cannot happen with the Golden Rule because it is built on a foundation of reciprocity.  Virtually all of us would like to be treated with respect and courtesy; the Golden Rule simply reminds us that we owe that same respect and courtesy to others.
           Of course sometimes there is a question as to exactly what would constitute showing respect and courtesy to a particular person in a particular situation.  And when that happens, the question should always be resolved by considering the wishes and feelings of *EVERYONE INVOLVED*, not just the person in question.  For example, it would *not* be reasonable or appropriate for a homosexual to demand that he be called “queer” by everyone including those who consider that term to be offensive and disgusting; their wishes and feeling count too!   Likewise, if a Moslem woman does not wish her face to be visible in public, that does *not* entitle her to appear in her passport photo fully veiled; international security is more important than the wishes of one individual.   These types of situations occur all the time, but the “Platinum Rule” naively assumes they will never be an issue, and has no provisions for dealing with them.  Until if and when that changes, I’m sticking with Gold.

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