Virtue, evil, and confusion

Fan Chi was strolling with Confucius around the Rain Dance Terrace. He said: “May I ask how you can accumulate virtue, correct evil thoughts, and recognize confusion?” Confucius said: “An excellent question! To always put service before reward: isn’t this the way to accumulate virtue? To attack the evil in yourself rather than the evil in other people: isn’t this the way to correct evil thoughts? To forget yourself in a moment of anger and bring ruin upon yourself and your family: isn’t this is a case of confusion?”

Fan Chi’s question is similar to the one that Zizhang posed to Confucius in Chapter XII of Book 10 about the phrase “accumulate virtue, recognize confusion” (崇德,辨惑。).

Confucius’s answer is very different, however, because he uses it to remind Fan Chi of the dangers of acquisitiveness that he first pointed out to him in Chapter XXII of Book 6: “A good man is first in line to confront difficulties and last in line to collect rewards. This is goodness.”

By warning Fan Chi against forgetting himself in a moment of anger, perhaps Confucius is also suggesting that his disciple should learn to control his temper better by not allowing his emotions to cloud his judgment.

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