Cultivating Speech and Not Talking About Others' Shortcomings

Wu He, a famous scholar of the Song Dynasty, had a mother who was very strict about discipling her children.

One day his mother overheard Wu He talking to a guest about other people's shortcomings. She became very angry, and after the guest left, she whipped him one hundred strokes with a stick.

A relative tried to calm her down and said, "Talking about others' strengths or shortcomings is commonplace among scholars. What is so wrong about it? There's no need to beat him like that."

His mother sighed, "I have heard that if parents truly love their daughter, they must insist on marrying her to a scholar who is very cautious about what he says. I only have one son now. I'm trying to make him understand moral and life principles. If he is not cautious about what he says, he is forgetting about his mother. This is the way he must live in the long run." His mother cried and refused to eat.

Divinely-inspired culture advocates that one has to be prudent about what one says. In the cultivating community, there is emphasis on the cultivation of speech, because a comment is capable of hurting others more than a sharp knife or gun could. Moreover, as soon as words are spoken, they can't be taken back, and they can create resentment and karma, thus bringing disaster to the speaker. Therefore, a person of principle who values virtue pays attention to cultivation of speech and does not always focus on or talk about others' omissions behind their backs. Such a person gives others a chance to rectify and amend themselves in an open and dignified manner, and they also look inward to see if they have the same kind of omission.

Under his mother's strict discipline, Wu He exercised caution, and from then on he held himself to a strict standard and focused on the cultivation of virtue and moral principles. He eventually became one of the most celebrated scholars of his time.

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