Choose your friends wisely

BSP22

子曰:「可與共學,未可與適道;可與適道,未可與立;可與立,未可與權。
Confucius said: “Just because someone is able to study with you doesn’t mean that they can follow the Way with you. Just because someone can follow the Way with you doesn’t mean that they can stand together with you. Just because someone can stand together with you doesn’t mean that they can join you in exercising moral discretion.”

Understand the person you are dealing with and only share your deepest confidences with them when you can trust them completely. That’s the simple message that Confucius is conveying here.

“Take a stand with” (立/) can be interpreted in a literal sense as ”stand in a ruler’s court with” during a ceremony or other social occasion and in a figurative sense as “make a commitment with”.

“Authority” (權/quán) is trickier. It may simply refer to the power someone has in their official position, but also implies having the moral authority to make a decision using your own judgment rather than just following the rules. If the latter is the case, then only a true leader (君子/jūnzǐ) would be able to operate at this level.

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