The Golden Rule Applied: 5 Crucial Motives of Relationships

UPDATED: April 2, 2022
PUBLISHED: May 27, 2021
The Golden Rule Applied: 5 Crucial Motives of Relationships

As we know, motive is of major importance in all human relationships. Let’s then consider the benefits you may receive by applying the Golden Rule and determine how many of the nine basic motives are acted upon in applying this rule:

1. The motive of love

This, the greatest of all the emotions, is founded on the Golden Rule spirit that inspires us to put aside selfishness, greed and envy and to relate ourselves to others as if we were in their place. The motive of love, expressed through the Golden Rule, enables us to comply freely with that age-old admonition to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” It brings us to a full recognition of the oneness of humankind, in which anything that damages our neighbors damages us too. 

Let us, therefore, apply the Golden Rule in all relationships as a practical means of demonstrating the spirit of humanity. This is the greatest of all motives for applying this profound rule.

2. The profit motive

This is a sound and universal motive but one that too often is selfishly expressed. Financial gains attained by applying the Golden Rule are more enduring. They carry with them the goodwill of those from whom the gains are attained. This sort of gain establishes no ill will, organized opposition, animosity or envy toward the one who gains it. In fact, it carries with it a form of willing cooperation from others that can be had in no other way. It is blessed gain in the strictest sense of the term.

3. The motive of self-preservation

The desire for self-preservation is inborn in every human being. It can best be attained by those whom, in their efforts to acquire it, aid others in their attainment of the same desire. The rule of “Live and let live,” when applied, ensures an in-kind response from others. Thus, the Golden Rule applied becomes the surest method of attaining self-preservation through the friendly cooperation of others.

4. The motive of desire for freedom of body and mind

There is a common bond that affects all people, and because it is universal, it influences every human relationship, placing life’s advantages and disadvantages, the losses and the gains, substantially on the same level. Just dues are meted out to those who try to take more than their fair share of the gains or to dodge their share of the losses.

Those who gain freedom of body and mind the quickest are those who aid others in attaining similar freedom. This is evidenced in every human relationship, whether it be one of profit or of loss. Freedom must become the common property of one’s neighbors and associates if it is to be enjoyed by one’s self.

Emerson had this same thought in mind when he said, “Nature hates monopolies and exceptions. The waves of the sea do not more speedily seek a level from their loftiest tossing than the varieties of condition [of life] tend to equalize themselves. There is always some leveling circumstance that puts down the overbearing, the strong, the rich, the fortunate, substantially on the same ground with all others.”

5. The motive of desire for power and fame:

Both power and fame, the desire for which is one of the nine basic motives of humankind, are circumstances that can be attained only through the friendly cooperation of others, through the Golden Rule applied. There is no escape from this conclusion—test the statement as you will.

Here again, one may profit by the slogan of the Rotary Club: “One profits most who serves best.” We cannot “serve best” without putting ourselves in the place of all those whom we serve in every form of relationship. We cannot acquire and hold power and fame without benefiting others in proportion to the benefits we ourselves enjoy. We begin now to understand why one should practice as well as preach the soundness of the Golden Rule. It is the practice that yields dividends, not merely the belief in the rule.

The Golden Rule Applied

Thus we see that those who relate themselves to others by applying the Golden Rule in all their acts thereby gain cooperation through five of the nine basic motives. They also provide themselves with a high degree of immunity against the influences of the two negative motives—fear and revenge. We might say that those who live by the Golden Rule profit by seven of the nine basic motives and provide themselves with protection against the two negative motives.

Here is the true road to personal power. We may acquire this form of power with the full consent and harmonious cooperation of those from whom we acquire it. It’s a permanent power.

This is the type of power that reflects itself in sound character. It’s a power that is never used to damage another person.

Now let us emphasize one feature of the Golden Rule that is too often overlooked—namely, that its benefits can be attained only through its use and not merely by believing in its soundness or in preaching about its soundness to others. A passive attitude toward this great rule of human conduct will not avail anything. Here, as in the case of faith, a passive attitude is of no practical value. “Deeds, not words” must be one’s motto.

The Golden Rule has been preached in one form or another for more than 2,000 years, but the world at large has accepted it only as a preachment. Only rarely have people in each generation discovered the potential powers available through the application of this great law and profited from its application. If this were not true, the world would not now be engaged, as it is, in tearing the works of civilization asunder.

The benefits of this philosophy are so varied and stupendous in number that it would be impractical to undertake to enumerate them, but this one point I wish to emphasize: the benefits accrue to those who apply the philosophy, as a matter of habit, in all their relationships with others.

Do not always expect to receive direct benefits from those with whom you relate yourself on the Golden Rule basis, because if you do, you will be disappointed. There are some who will not respond in kind, but their failure will be their loss, not yours.

Reprinted with permission from Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite by James Whittaker. Copyright © 2020 The Napoleon Hill Foundation. Published by of Sterling Publishing.

Photo by @crystal-pontialmariesing/

Napoleon Hill was born in 1883 in a one-room cabin on the Pound River in Wise County, Virginia. He is the author of the motivational classics The Laws of Success and Think and Grow Rich. Hill passed away in November 1970 after a long and successful career writing, teaching, and lecturing about the principles of success. His lifework continues under the direction of the Napoleon Hill Foundation.