Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness


Trustworthiness (信/xìn) is another of the so-called secondary values promoted by Confucius. It means remaining true to your word and being a dependable support for others. In some contexts it can also be translated as “faithfulness”, “sincerity”,  “truthfulness”, or “honesty”.

Confucius demonstrates the value he places on it in Chapter 7 of Book 1 when he advises that a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) should, “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.” In Chapter 6, he also says that a young man “should be cautious and truthful.”

Zixia echoes his thoughts by describing a man who is “true to his word with his friends” as being truly “learned” in Chapter 7. In a similar vein, Zengzi explains in Chapter 4 that one of the questions he asks when he examines himself three times every day is: “Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends?”

Just like its counterpart loyalty (忠/zhōng), trustworthiness forms the glue that binds social relationships. Given the rapid economic, social, and political changes that China was undergoing during their lifetimes, it is no surprise that Confucius and his associates prized trustworthiness and loyalty so highly. Without them, the smooth functioning of government, business, and society would have quickly unraveled. 



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