This post is part 3 of 9 in the series Oprah's 25 years of lessons learned.

On her final show, Oprah shared her greatest lessons and hopes for her viewers. In this series of posts, Paul highlights ten lessons Oprah learned, along with his related and unre­lated thoughts and stories.

“Remember physics class? Did you pay attention to Newton’s third law of motion? Let me tell you, that thing is real. It says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is the abiding law that I live by, articulated to perfection by Miss Celie in The Color Purple when she finally gets the courage to leave her abusive husband, Mister. ‘Everything you done to me already done to you.’ It is the Golden Rule to the 10th power.” — Oprah Winfrey, May 25, 2011

Read the complete Oprah Show finale transcript →

Watch the scene from The Color Purple

Expanding the Golden Rule

Compassion is central to the world’s major faiths. Each has evolved a version of what is commonly called the Golden Rule — “Always treat all others as you would like to be treated yourself.”

Or another version, as shared by Karen Armstrong, a prominent scholar of religion and society:

“Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” Look into your own heart. Discover what it is that gives you pain. And then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever to inflict that pain on anybody else.

“People have emphasized the importance of compassion, not just because it sounds good, but because it works. People have found that when they have implemented the Golden Rule as Confucius said, “all day and every day,” not just a question of doing your good deed for the day and then returning to a life of greed and egotism, but to do it all day and every day, you dethrone yourself from the center of your world, put another there, and you transcend yourself. And it brings you into the presence of what’s being called God, Nirvana, Rama, Tao. Something that goes beyond what we know in our ego-bound existence.” — Karen Armstrong at TED

With both versions, one assumption I could make is that human beings are all alike and would want to be treated the same — my way. This plays to my wanting to see myself in others — our commonness. The roots of this desire — I’m back at my cave, wondering if the person at the door is a friend or foe. And wishing I had dug a back door escape route.

My hunch is there are different ways people would prefer to be treated — based on different learning styles or individual strengths or cultural backgrounds. I’ve watched parents communicate differently with each of their children. The child who just wants the facts. The child who is stimulated by questions. The child who wants time alone to think.

What’s common within the family are values — respect for others’ needs, love of learning. It’s the doing, how the values are played out in life, that is different for each individual.

Maybe a more powerful statement of the rule is “Always treat all others as they wish to be treated.” This calls me to ask others how they want to be treated. To be curious. To be in relationship.

Asking, “How would you want it to be?” “Why is that important to you?” “What do you need from me?”