...But harm none.' is one phrase in what is called the Wiccan Rede. It is what Wiccans (and many Pagans) are supposed to live by, and it seems like the simplest rule to live by. In honesty, you would think that it would be. It is very similar to 'The Golden Rule' (Treat others as you would like to be treated/Do unto others what you would have them do unto you), which crosses many religions and forms of belief. However, they are not exactly one and the same and how does one know if they are living this path?
I know how I would like to be treated, and I expect these common courtesies from my fellow men and women. Things like saying please and thank you, having respect for me even if we do not agree on a subject or topic, allowing me to speak my piece, moving to the side of the isle when someone is trying to get through, etc. Of course, sometimes I am sorely reminded that not all people follow this logic or rules of civility. However, I feel it is my responsibility to do so even if they do not. Maybe one day they will learn; however unlikely that is.
These common courtesies are wonderful to live by but do they reflect the bigger picture? To an extent they do. By sending positive energy into the universe through showing respect for your fellow man [and women ;)] we expect that positive energy to be returned to us. This is the law of Karma. However, what about the larger consequences of our actions? That is what the Wiccan Rede expects you to take into account.
Say your co-worker is having a terrible day, and found out someone close to them is sick. All the Pleases and Thank You’s and right of ways will do nothing to help their day. They may think that you are very courteous, but beyond that it provides them no emotional or spiritual support. By ignoring their concerns you are essentially saying “I know that you are hurting but if I ignore you I am not hurting you and hence not in violation of the Wiccan Rede”, but in reality are you really abiding by it? Personally, I do not think so. I think this is one of the things that many Pagans and Wiccans can learn. Just because you are not causing direct harm does not mean that harm is not being caused.
Of course, you can take this to the other extreme and begin taking responsibility for the ills others have. It is very easy for someone to become the door onto which everyone drops their problems, allowing you to resolve them but learning nothing in the process. Sometimes it is for the greater good, and other times it is not. How is one person in the whole of creation supposed to know the difference?
The answer is… we simply try our best to be our best. Deep down we know what is right, and if we are true to that then we are true to ourselves. The Golden Rule and the Wiccan Rede are great ideals to live by, but they are simply that… just ideals. It is up to the individual to maintain a balance in which they are able to provide for themselves (spiritually, physically, and emotionally) as well as others. By limiting ourselves in order to give so much of what we have that we cannot care for our needs we ultimately harm ourselves, and by being forced into inaction by fear of harming others by our actions (or magickal work) we ultimately cause harm by inaction when we could potentially help them.
That is really the goal of the Wiccan Rede in my opinion- To help yourself and others through balance and moderation. Through doing so we help others to learn to help themselves while providing support, and help ourselves by learning to provide that support in whatever way we can or deem necessary.