Being alert when one is alone
This means one should be strict with oneself even when alone. Through this, one will discipline the inner thoughts and prevent erroneous or selfish thoughts. In Zhong Yong (Doctrine of the Mean)
, it is written, "A gentleman is alert when he is on his own." That is to say, "There are some hidden, subtle thoughts which already exist but have not yet developed. One could be aware of it although others have yet to find out. One should abstain from one’s own desires even at the earliest stage to prevent them from growing. Be careful when speaking and be cautious when acting so that one can meet moral standards." Being alert when one is alone is a manifestation of one’s attitude towards life. It means having consistency between one's mind and actions. This openness is new realm of life. There are many ancient anecdotes like this.
On the issue of human relationships in society, Confucius emphasized generosity and forgiveness. He said, "One should demand more upon oneself, and demand less from others." "Do not apply something you do not like upon others." Zhu Xi (Confucian scholar in the Song Dynasty) said, "Doing one's best is loyalty, and considering others' situation as if one's own is forgiveness." That is to say, be considerate and place yourself in others' shoes. A gentleman should be strict with himself while generous and forgiving with others. A gentleman should be trustworthy and his words are consistent with his actions. Confucius once said, "When you say something, make sure to keep your word. When you do something, make sure it is completed." Confucius also said, "A gentleman is cautious with his words, since he considers it shameful when he is unable to achieve his words." When a gentleman sees someone better than himself, he would learn from that person. When a gentleman sees someone who was less virtuous, he would examine himself to see if he had similar problems. A gentleman should also think about righteousness when faced with profit. Mengzi said, “A gentleman is good at learning from others’ merits, good at guiding others towards benevolence, and act compassionately together with others.”
The purpose of a gentleman's study and self-improvement is to "realize righteousness to achieve the Tao." Confucius said that self-cultivation requires one to be serious and respectful when performing deeds, to be compassionate to others, and to bring peace to all citizens. In Da Xue (Great Learning)
, this was summarized as "Cultivate oneself, harmonize the family, manage a nation, and bring peace to the world." A gentleman should purify his own mind and body to virtuously achieve the Tao. Only by having high virtues can one be open-minded, kindhearted, and be able to fulfill his social responsibility to safeguard the truth.