Living the Golden Rule

** Frank Sonnenbeg has been a longtime friend of The Ray Center and CHARACTER COUNTS!. We’re proud to share an excerpt from his new book, The Path to a Meaningful Life. Enjoy! **

Everyone knows the Golden Rule. In fact, numerous religions espouse it, the most familiar version being, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The question is, if most people know, and agree, with the principle, why don’t more folks live by that standard? Do you abide by the Golden Rule?

When you do nothing, nothing happens.

If you truly want to live by this principle, the first place to start is to understand its true meaning and how to apply it effectively.

First, the Golden Rule should say, “Do unto others as THEY want to be treated” rather than “how YOU want to be treated.” Otherwise, you’re imposing your preferences and values unto others.

Second, be empathetic. Don’t assume you know what people need; you’re not a mind reader. Everyone is unique; treat people according to their individual needs and desires.

How to Live by the Golden Rule

There are many ways to incorporate the precepts of the Golden Rule into your daily life. Here are 30 examples:

See the good in people. Make people feel special.

Be the first to give. Give for the right reason — and that is, give for no reason at all.

Play by the rules. Don’t cut in line. Wait your turn.

Listen to others. Communicate. Don’t just take turns talking.

Be unbiased. Never judge someone you don’t know.

Keep an open mind. Search for the truth by listening to opposing arguments and letting others challenge your views and opinions.

Give people a chance. As you climb the ladder of success, reach down and pull others along with you.

Make every collaboration win-win. Never win at the expense of a relationship.

Be selfless. Put others’ needs ahead of your own.

Tell it like it is. Don’t say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Stop criticizing. Constructive feedback is helpful; criticism is hurtful and damaging.

Set the bar high. Be tough but fair. Don’t demand things of others that you’re unwilling to do yourself.

Work hard. Pull your weight rather than weigh down the team.

Have a heart. Stand up for those who are less fortunate.

Be tolerant. Don’t force your views on others. You can’t expect others to abandon their values any more than you would forsake your own.

Give with an open hand. Give with no strings attached.

Be available. Be a good friend in good times and bad.

Be informed. Listen to both sides of a debate before forming your opinion.

Build trusting relationships. Earn respect rather than demanding it.

Be compassionate. Help people get back on their feet. But don’t make them dependent on your good graces.

Be even-handed. Consider whether fairness would still apply if the tables were turned.

Forgive and forget. Let it go. Seeking retaliation rather than forgiveness traps you in the anger.

Share the credit. Deflect recognition rather than hoarding it.

Hold out hope. Lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Accept “no” for an answer. Respect people’s priorities rather than making everything about you.

Be willing to sacrifice. Raise your own hand rather than volunteering others.

Offer your unconditional love. Accept people for who they are, not for who you want them to be.

Earn your keep. You don’t get what you want; you get what you deserve.

Give up control. Put your faith in people rather than micromanaging them.

Be grateful. Show your appreciation and never take anything for granted.

The Golden Rule — Make It a Reality

The only thing required to live the Golden Rule is the will and desire to shift your focus from yourself to others — selfish to selfless. In doing so, it’s not only beneficial to others, it’ll benefit you in ways you’d never imagine. But a good intention is like an idea that you keep to yourself. If you don’t do something with it, it’s like it never existed.

The Golden Rule is not just a nicety; it’s a way of life.

Make the effort today, and then again tomorrow. As Edwin Markham, the American poet, said, “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.” The fact is, success is a game of inches. When you do something well day in, and day out, the cumulative impact is huge. Before you know it, you’re living the Golden Rule.

Excerpted from The Path to a Meaningful Life by Frank Sonnenberg.

Frank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author and a well-known advocate for moral character, personal values, and personal responsibility. He has written nine books and has been named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Frank’s newest book, The Path to a Meaningful Life, was released June 14, 2022.

Additionally, his blog — FrankSonnenbergOnline — has attracted millions of readers on the Internet. It was recently named one of the “Top Self-Improvement and Personal Development Blogs” in the world, and it continues to be named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs,” the “Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs,” and the “Best Inspirational Blogs On the Planet.”

Social-Emotional Learning Funded by ESSER

ESSR Funds SEL and Character Education

Social-Emotional Learning and Character Education can be funded by ESSER! An intentional focus on social-emotional learning and character skills has never been more important. Fortunately, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund (I and II) provides funding for COVID-19 relief projects. This can include professional development, curricular resources, assessment, and support services for students’ social-emotional needs.

Professional Development

Our professional development workshops:

  • teach strategies on creating a positive school culture,
  • provide best practices on how to teach, enforce, advocate, and model social-emotional skills,
  • and help educators create a plan to provide sustainable SEL services.
Curicular Resources

We have a variety of curricular resources to help you intentionally and consistently focus on character and SEL skills. Additionally, you can buy many of our digital materials as a perpetual license. Your school can use ESSER money on a one-time purchase that you can utilize long after ESSER funding runs out.


Schools use culture and climate assessments to identify parts of their culture that may need attention. When taken annually, these surveys can illustrate how your social-emotional interventions are positively impacting school culture. Importantly, since you can use ESSER funds through September 2023, schools can gather two years of valuable data.

Get Started

We’re dedicated to helping educators intentionally and consistently teach these important skills. For more information on using ESSER funds for CHARACTER COUNTS!, please contact Jason Lamping at Jason.lamping@drake.edu.

More information about ESSER:

Support for afterschool and summer programs: 

Funding by state: 

Achieve and Avoid

Achieve and Avoid

Good communication requires us to respect each other. A tip for respectful respectful conversations is to consider:

  • what we want to achieve.
  • what we to avoid.
Achieve and Avoid

It is easy to focus too much on what we want to achieve in our conversations. For example, “I want to convince this person that I am right” or “I want to make this person realize that they are not considering all of the facts.” But, we should be putting the same focus on what we want to avoid during the conversation. We want to avoid insulting the other person, or even worse, ruining a relationship from a conversation gone wrong. 

Before a conversation, if we think about what we want to achieve, we could want to:

  • express our own opinion.
  • give examples of our perspective.

We want to avoid:

  • insulting the other person.
  • making someone else feel insignificant or disrespected.
Approaching with Respect and Tolerance

It is important to remember that showing someone respect doesn’t mean you are endorsing their beliefs. We don’t have to agree with another person to give them respect and accept that their beliefs are valid to them. 

Therefore, if we genuinely want to engage with someone who has different opinions, we need to approach them with respect and acceptance. A quick look at social media can show us that sometimes differences in opinion bring out criticism of people who think differently than we do. Criticism and judgment in those moments are precisely what we wanted to avoid. It will cause others to shut down communication and entrench them more deeply into their ideas and beliefs.

Your Next Conversation

Of course, we don’t always prepare for each conversation and think through what we want to achieve and what we want to avoid. But, if we practice being aware of what we want to achieve and avoid, we’ll get better at having respectful conversations that both people feel good about.

Connection, Character, and Role Models

In our CHARACTER COUNTS! workshops, we discuss how being a positive role model is a key part of teaching good character. Think about a role model who made an impact on your life. Then, consider how that person was able to make such a positive impact on you. The answer we hear often is that the people who impact us take the time to learn about and connect with us. Connection is an important element of being a good role model and making a positive impact on others. Connection helps others trust us and believe in our integrity.

We hear amazing stories about people who make a positive impact because they connected with others and built trusting relationships. We learn about coaches who taught athletes how to overcome adversity in their lives, mentors who guided important, life-altering decisions, and teachers who inspired their students to become educators themselves.

Meaningful, sustainable connections aren’t just the key to building relationships. Connecting with others also builds a positive culture, whether it be at home, work, school, or another organization. An easy first step in building connections is asking questions. Be curious and engaged about the other person. Look for commonalities and express interest in your differences.

How can you make a positive impact on others? Get started by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Who made a positive impact on your life? In addition, how did that person make a difference in your life?
  2. Who could you positively impact by making a deeper connection with them?
  3. How can you make a deeper connection with those individuals?

Gratitude in Challenging Times

Navigating life’s hardships (including a contentious election, a global pandemic, and the economic breakdowns caused by COVID-19) can be exhausting. However, there is still a lot that we can be thankful for and it is important to show gratitude in challenging times.

It’s always a good time to remind ourselves to be grateful, even amidst challenges. Make a list of the people you are grateful for and think about why you value them. Reach out to each person and express that gratitude. 

When we remember what we are grateful for, that positive feeling will fuel our ability to overcome obstacles. We shouldn’t let any opportunity to be grateful pass us by.

More Resources

Achieving Civility Through our Mindset

Mindsets and civility

“I’m not allowed to get angry?” That’s a question that is raised in nearly every civility workshop we lead. Participants want to know how to have a mindset focused on civility when they’re feeling angry or frustrated. Our answer to that question is, “Of course you’re allowed to be angry. But, choose a mindset that helps you deal with the problem with civility.” It is our ability to understand the roles of emotions and mindsets that can help us maintain civility through everyday challenges.

While our emotions influence our mindsets, you can choose different mindsets for the same emotion. For example, if I’m feeling angry that my flight got canceled, I can choose a mindset that says, “This is the worst day ever! Why does this always happen to me? Nothing ever goes right.” Or, I can have a mindset that says, “I’ll get through this. There is a solution here. I can get this fixed.” The emotion is the same in both scenarios, but the mindset changes. When we lose someone close to us, we can feel that sadness for the rest of our life, but our mindsets may change and evolve over time. We can be devastatingly heartbroken over someone’s passing (emotion) and think about how grateful we are for the memories we have (mindset) at the same time.

Choosing your mindset, no matter your emotional state is an incredibly powerful tool because our mindset impacts our response. A negative mindset makes it less likely that we will choose the best possible response.

Our response to any situation is always entirely within our control. No matter how angry or frustrated we get, we can choose any number of responses – from violence, shaming, and name-calling to asking questions, seeking connection, and working to understand the other person. It is the same emotion, but different mindsets produce different responses.

The next time you are struggling to choose the right response in an emotional moment hit pause and ask yourself three questions:

  1. What emotion am I feeling right now and why am I feeling it? Acknowledge the emotion. Acknowledge the reason for that emotion. Feel what you feel.
  2. What outcome do I hope to achieve in this situation? You can’t fix everything, but what outcome is within your influence?
  3. What mindset and response give me the best chance to achieve that outcome?

By Jeff Kluever, Director of Programs

Achieve Through Character

Talent matters. Talented athletes are likely to win more games. Talented students are likely to achieve higher test scores. Talented musicians and artists are likely to receive recognition for their work. Talent impacts results. Although our society puts a lot of emphasis on talent, talent is just the minimum that we can achieve. To advance from talent to skill and then to achievement, we rely on our character skills like strong work ethic, leadership, perseverance, integrity, etc.

60-Second Character Reflection

  1. What character skill could you improve to better maximize your talent?
  2. Think of someone you teach, coach, parent, or lead. What character skill(s) could you help that person develop to help them maximize their talent?

Energy and Effort into What Matters

By Jeff Kluever, Director of Programs

We fill our lives by putting energy and effort into what matters. There’s a popular demonstration called “Jar of Life” in which a jar is filled with big rocks (important things like family, health, work), little rocks (less important things like sports or hobbies), and sand (unimportant things like watching television or social media). When you fill the jar with the big rocks first, then the little rocks, and finally the sand, everything fits in the jar. If you reverse the process and start with sand, then little rocks, then big rocks, not everything fits in the jar.

The point of the demonstration is that when we fill our time with the most important things first, the little rocks and sand can be worked in, but when our time is consumed by unimportant things, we run out of space for what really matters.

When I perform the demonstration, however, I exchange the big rocks for balloons and pose the question – instead of trying to cram more unimportant things into our jar, what if we decided to put more air into our balloons? In other words, what if we put more time, energy, and effort into the big things that really matter, instead of jamming more unimportant sand into our life? What will be more fulfilling – putting more into the important aspects of your life or spending more time on social media?

There’s nothing wrong with having some little rocks and sand in your jar. We need variety in our lives. We need opportunities to rest and rejuvenate so that when the time comes we can be fully engaged with our balloons. But, when you feel like you’re falling short, when there’s just not enough time in the day, don’t cram in more sand. Put air in your balloons.

60-Second Character Challenge
  • What are the critically important “big rocks” or “balloons” in your life?
  • What could you do to invest more time and energy into your “balloons?”
  • What unimportant sand could you remove from your life in order to invest more energy into your “balloons?

Leading a significant life

From guest contributor Michael Josephson, founder of CHARACTER COUNTS!

Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” In a world increasingly dominated by unapologetic selfishness, this idea may seem quaint and outdated. Yet, for those who have a grand vision of their purpose and value, striving to be of service is not only a noble thing to do, it’s the best way to lead a truly fulfilling and significant life.

Poet William Allen Dromgoole put it this way:

An old man going a lone highway
Came at the evening, cold and grey,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a swollen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim.
That swollen stream held no fears for him,
But he paused when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You’re wasting strength with building here.
Your journey ends with the ending day.
You never again must pass this way.
You’ve crossed this chasm deep and wide.
Why build this bridge at the even’ tide?”

The builder lifted his old grey head,
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

“This swollen stream that was naught for me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He too must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

Conflict Resolution for Kids

From guest contributor Dr. Michele Borba

Arguing. Quarreling. Yelling. Door slamming. Crying. Hurt feelings. Sound familiar? Arguments are a big part of why kids can’t get along, and conflict (and conflict resolution) is also a part of life. One of the most essential skills you need to teach your child is how to handle conflicts so he can survive the social jungle and life. Learning how to deal with all those problems that crop up is a big part of growing up and an essential life skill.

The key point is that not only must your child learn conflict resolution, but do so in a peaceful, calm way so that all the kids involved feel like they’ve won. That’s called a win-win scenario and it’s the best way to reduce arguments and restore friendships. Doing so will not only dramatically boost your child’s friendship quotient, but also improve harmony on the home front. And wouldn’t that ever be a plus?

On a day-to-day basis, the problems our kids face are tough: prejudice, sibling conflict, academic and youth sport pressures, rejection by friends, cliques and gangs, bullying, trying to get along, as well as the frustrations of just growing up. These are issues we used to think only affected older kids; the fact is they are impacting our children at a younger and younger age. 

Although we can’t protect our kids from problems, frustrations, and heartaches, we can arm them with tools to better handle them. The more we help them learn to resolve conflicts peacefully, the greater the likelihood they’ll develop into more self-sufficient, and resourceful individuals able to deal with any issue—and do so without our guidance.

5 Steps to Help Kids Solve Conflicts Amicably

Use the following as a guide to help your kid minimize fighting and learn to solve problems peacefully. Each letter in the acronym, “STAND” represents one of the five steps in conflict resolution and helps kids recall the process. I developed S.T.A.N.D. when I was teaching special needs kids who had difficulty recalling information. It worked so well for them, I began to use it in my private practice with kids. The best news is that I have students coming back years later saying, “I’m still taking that STAND, Dr. Borba.” YES!!!!

Take a S.T.A.N.D. to Solve a Problem

S – Stop and calm down. Keep emotions in check.

T – Tell what’s bugging you. Listen to each side. Stick to facts!

A – Assess alternatives. Brainstorm your options.

N – Narrow the choices to “win-wins”

D – Decide on the best one that you both agree upon -and do it!

Remember, the best way to teach any skill is by “Showing” not “Telling.”  So model each step, and then rehearse it over and over until your child can do each step without you. Learning how to deal with problems in the comfort of your home is also the greatest place for kids to learn by trial and error. Keep reinforcing a realistic approach to help your kids solve problems until they can confidently do so on their own. Finally, make sure you are modeling how to solve problems. Kids watch their parents’ conflict styles and copy. 

Step 1. S = Stop and Calm Down

The first step to solving problems peacefully — or conflict resolution — is teaching kids how to calm down and tune into their feelings. The reason is simple: it’s impossible to think about how to solve a problem if you’re upset. Once in control, you can begin to rationally figure out why you’re upset and then find an answer to your dilemma.  So teach your kid to take a slow deep breath to calm down or walk away until he’s calm. If emotions are high amongst the two kids, do intervene: “I see two angry kids who need to calm down so they can figure out how to solve their problem.”  Tip: You might need to separate the kids until their anger is under control.

Step 2. T = Take Turns Telling What the Problem Is

The trick in this second step in conflict resolution is to teach and then enforce these two critical rules:

  • No put downs or name-calling: You must listen to each other respectfully. (And that takes time!)
  • No interrupting: Each person gets a chance to talk. You might ask each kid to say what happened, summarize each view, and then end with, “What can you do now to solve this problem?” Make suggestions only when your kids really seem stuck.

Three Tips: 

1. One trick: Tell kids to start their explanations with the word  “I” instead of  “You” then describe the problem and how they want it resolved. Doing so helps the speaker focus on the conflict without putting the other kid down. For instance:  “I’m ticked because you never give me a turn. I want to use the computer, too.”

2. If emotions are high, give kids the option of writing or drawing their view of the problem instead of saying it to each other. It’s particularly helpful for younger or less verbal kids. 

3. The goal should be to help each kid try and feel what it’s like to be in the other kid’s shoes. One way to do this is by having each kid put into their own words what the other kid has told them.

Step 3. A = List the Alternatives to Resolving It

Next, kids need to think of alternatives so they have more ways to achieve conflict resolution. Whether your child is a preschooler or an adolescent, the basic rules of thinking of solutions (or brainstorming — or “storming your brain for ideas”)  are the same:

Brainstorming Rules for Kids

  • Say the first thing that pops into your mind-every idea counts.
  • Don’t put down anyone else’s ideas.
  • Change or add onto anyone’s idea.
  • Try to come up with ideas that work for both sides.

Don’t offer your help unless kids really seem stuck! The only way they will develop the confidence to figure things out alone is if you let them.  To keep kids focused, say they must come up with five (or two or three for younger kids) different solutions before you return. Then leave for a few minutes. Stretch the time depending on the children’s age and problem-solving skills.

Teach Little Ones to Use a “Hand Pocket Solver”

A fun idea for younger kids is to teach them to use a “Hand Pocket Problem Solver” (aka their hand!) Hold their hand in yours and go through problem-solving steps. You will have to do this a dozen times but it will kick in!

Thumb:  Say what’s bugging you (the problem)
Pointer, Middle Man, Ring Man: Name 3 ways to solve it (ANYTHING!)
Pinkie: Name the best choice.

Step 4. N = Narrow Choices

Narrow the options down to a few choices. Hint: You will have to go through this a few times but the process is so important. These are the steps that teach decision-making — the same steps your tween or teen will need later to make good, wise, and safe choices alone. 

Here are  two rules to help kids get closer to resolving the problem:

  • Rule 1: Eliminate solutions that are unacceptable to either kid because they don’t satisfy their needs.
  • Rule 2. Eliminate any solutions that aren’t safe or wise (or against our home rules).

Step 5. D = Decide the Best Choice and Do It!

The final step helps kids learn how to make the best decision by thinking through the consequences of their choices.  You can teach kids to think about the consequence of their remaining choices by asking: “What might happen if you tried that?”

Another way to help kids decide on the best choice is by helping them weigh the pros and cons of each remaining possibility: 

  • “What are all the good and bad things that might happen if you chose that?” 
  • “What is the one last change that would make this work better for both of us.”

Once they decide, the two kids shake on the agreement or take turns saying, “I agree.” And then they must stick to that agreement. Yes, it will take time — so keep on. Remember, your real goal is to help your kids learn to act right and make safe, wise choices without you. So keep guiding your kids until they can do the steps– and then step back so they will. 

Michele Borba, Ed.D. is an internationally renowned consultant, educational psychologist, and recipient of the National Educator Award who has presented workshops to over a million participants worldwide. She is a recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development and author of 22 books including UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World, The 6Rs of Bullying Prevention: Best Proven Practices to Combat Cruelty and Build Respect, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, and Building Moral Intelligence. She has appeared over 130 times on the TODAY show and is a frequent expert on national media including Dateline, The View, Dr. Oz, Anderson Cooper, CNN, Dr. Drew, and Dr. Phil. To book her for speaking or media even refer to her website: www.micheleborba.com. Follow her on Twitter @MicheleBorba.

Learn more about character education.