Golden Rule: Do to others what you would like to be done to you.
Silver Rule: Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you.
When you look at the two rules above, you might notice that one is positive and another is negative. You might not notice the subtle difference in meaning that allows. The former, being the positive variant, asks you to take any action that would end in a beneficial result for the good of another. The latter, being the negative variant, doesn’t ask you step out on a limb, so to speak. You’re only required to restrain yourself from actions that harm another. The difference is that one asks you to help and the other doesn’t.
Other Silver Rule: Do unto others so that they’ll do unto you.
Bronze Rule: Do unto others as they have done unto you.
Copper Rule: Do unto others as you expect they’ll do unto you.
Iron Rule: Do unto others before they do unto you.
Each of these variants come from a different motivation: greed, revenge, suspicion, and malice. When your motivations are selfish, nothing good can result. In this set, there isn’t much motivation to be good. The first demands the same benefit in return. The second pays back an unkindness with the same unkindness. The third insists on the same benefit in return, and the fourth pays an expected unkindness with the same unkindness. It’s a bad idea the whole way around. You have no idea if the kindness you pay will be repaid with the same kindness. You have no idea if the unkindness you pay would have orginially been repaid with kindness or that same unkindness. You could get yourself into a world of pain and hurt trying to live by these variants because your motives are selfish.
Another variant of the Bronze Rule was that kindness ought to be repaid with kindness and unkindness with justice. But what good is that? We make kindness to be as cheap as any other kindess in the sense of not being unkind. But unkindness that expects unkindness that gets unkindness builds up a thick skin that justice only hardens. There is a point where you have to be kind to the unkindest souls out there because they expect unkindness. Perhaps our own hard hearts will be softened in the process. I’m not saying that we ought to let a thief get away with it always, but we ought to know when to hand over the cloak as well.
While the first Golden and Silver Rules are official to have their own Wikipedia pages, there is no official Bronze Rule. If there was, I’d imagine it would be like this:
The Bronze Rule: Do or do not do to others what you would like, not like to be done, or have them do to you.
That would really put you in a tough spot, now wouldn’t it? What would your Bronze Rule be?