When Zixia asked about filial devotion, the Master said: “It’s the attitude that counts. If young people just offer their help when there is a job to do or serve their elders wine and food when they need to drink and eat, how could this ever be considered as filial devotion?”
Even in the most seemingly mundane situations, there is always an opportunity to make a difference if you are mindful of what is happening around you and are willing to go that extra centimeter. As Confucius points out, it’s the attitude that counts!
If you’re working in a store, for example, you don’t need a sophisticated AI behavior analytics system to help you spot a shopper who can’t find what they’re looking for but are too embarrassed to ask the staff for assistance. All it takes is paying closer attention to the body language of the people around you followed by a tactful question asking if the befuddled shopper needs some assistance. A small intervention can make a huge difference.
Confucius isn’t interested in giving you any shortcuts for getting ahead in his teachings. His goal is to help you build up the right behavior and mindset for treating other people well. If you only grudgingly make the lives of your closest family members more comfortable, how will it be possible for you get on with others once you step out into the big bad world?
This article features a translation of Chapter 8 of Book 2 of The Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 2 here.
I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Beijing.