Benevolence Begins With Oneself (Part 1 of 2)
When asked "How can a person develop a good moral character?" Confucius replied, "Benevolence begins with oneself." When someone begins to stress the development of one's moral character, it is the beginning of benevolence, the elevation of one's moral standard, and the affirmation of one's wisdom. The intrinsic beauty is the enrichment of one's moral character, and the external manifestation is benevolence and sincerity. The difference between a person of virtue and a sly person depends on whether he cultivates his moral character or not. The following are three stories on the cultivation of one's moral character.
Value Rationality, Not Words
On one occasion, Confucius' students were having a discussion. Some students talked agitatedly, using strong language and dramatic facial expression. Zizhang said, "When discussing an issue, Confucius set an example. When our teacher talks, he speaks slowly, gently, and firmly. His mannerism is firm and respectful. He listens quietly until he understands what the other person is saying, then he expresses his opinion cautiously and calmly. He puts himself in other people's shoes, and is modest and polite. His ideas are excellent and conform to established social etiquette. He is broad-minded and tolerant of others. Because he practices what he preaches, he is able to spread his ideas on morality and justice. When discussing an issue, those with deficient moral character tend to be opinionated and conceited, and like to dwell on others' mistakes. When they speak, they often stare and shoot out words rapidly and glibly. They speak with emotion and not rationality, and their attitude is stubborn. This is not the way a virtuous person speaks. We should learn from Confucius."
Zixia asked Confucius, "Does a virtuous person value words?" Confucius replied, "A virtuous person has high regards for rationality. A person who possesses vast knowledge but does not understand the reasons behind it cannot meet the standard of a virtuous man with true knowledge. Even though his words are elegant, rich, and plentiful, they still cannot make people listen. A person with high moral values has to be respectful of others; this is the way to preserve one's high morality. A person who possesses intelligence and wisdom has to be open-minded and humble; this is the way to preserve one's intelligence and wisdom. A person with vast knowledge needs to remind himself of his lack of knowledge; this is the way to preserve his true nature. By restraining oneself, one always leaves room in one's heart."