Confucian Wisdom on the Ways of Treating Others

Confucius pointed out that kindness is both a political ideology and a moral standard. Kindness stresses caring for others and promotes the idea of loyalty and forgiveness. Such an ideology has a profound impact on the Chinese traditional virtues of honesty, forbearance and kindness. It still has deep meaning in today's society.

Sincerity is the foremost foundation

One time when Confucius was discussing the ways of treating others with his students, Zilu said, "If others treat me with kindness, I will be kind to them in return; If they are not kind to me, I will not be kind to them either."

Confucius commented, "This is the way of immoral people."

Zigong said, "If others treat me with kindness, I will return kindness to them; If they are not kind to me, I will guide them to kindness."

Confucius commented, "This is the way between friends."

Yanzi said, "If others treat me with kindness, I will be kind to them in return; If they are not kind to me, I will also be kind to them and guide them to kindness."

Confucius commented, "This is the way between family and relatives. If you can expand the idea and treat all people in the world with sincerity, it will true kindness!"

Treat others with kindness

Yanzi asked Confucius, "How can I achieve the goal of treating others with kindness? I wish I could achieve treating others the same regardless if they are poor or rich; be courageous without showing off my bravery; be friends only with people who have noble goals and avoid hardship throughout my life. Is this correct?"

Confucius said, "To be kind, one needs to cultivate himself and constantly improve his morality. What you said is good. Behaving the same whether they are rich or poor, you will be content and won't be driven by desire. Behaving the same no matter if you are in a high position or just among the general populous, you will always be humble and polite. Being courageous without showing off bravery, you will treat people with respect. Being friends with people who have noble goals and avoiding hardship throughout life, you can choose your friends, you words and actions with caution. This is a very good goal!"

The way of governing

Qi Gaoting asked Confucius, "I traveled a long distance and went through hardships, wearing worn out clothes and bearing gifts for you, I came in the hope that you can teach me the way of assisting the emperor to govern the country."

Confucius said, "Insist on righteousness and principles. Even if it means offending the emperor, you cannot give up righteousness and principles. Assisting the emperor doesn't mean doing things for the emperor, but rather doing things for the country and its people under the emperor. It boils down to doing righteous things and assisting the emperor to promote kindness. You need to treat everyone with sincerity. You need to set a good example and insist on righteousness. Recommend capable people to the emperor while making vicious people go away; rid yourself of your evil side and get along with the emperor according to the code and rules. You need to be sharp and yet cautious with your words and deeds; cultivate yourself and guide your people to kindness. If you can do this, you can be like a brother to the emperor even if you are thousands of miles away from him. Otherwise, you cannot make it even if you stay right next to him."

Confucius said that one needs to cultivate oneself in order to treat others well. Treating others is not the goal, but improving oneself to a higher level is. Confucius took loyalty, respect, humility and reliability as the prerequisites for being a noble man. A noble man can reach "kindness" through self-criticism and treating others with kindness and forbearance. A noble man will uphold high morality no matter what the situation is and will keep his heart pure, treat others kindly and cherish life. Be they rich or poor, he will not be moved. Power and coercion cannot make him yield.

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