Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the people of Hu Village

people of Hu Village

互鄉難與言,童子見,門人惑。子曰:「與其進也,不與其退也,唯何甚?人潔己以進,與其潔也,不保其往也。」
The people of Hu Village were difficult to communicate with, so when a boy from there came to visit Confucius his followers didn’t know what to think. Confucius said: “Just because I approve of his desire to improve himself doesn’t mean that I approve of his past mistakes. Why be so hard on him? If people make the effort to improve themselves, we should approve of their progress and ignore their previous missteps.”

Don’t let your preconceptions cloud your opinion of someone before you’ve even had the chance to meet them. No matter what you’ve previously heard about them, welcome them with an open mind and look and listen for the positive in them. The chances are that they will pleasantly surprise you and you will learn a lot from them, especially if they have a very different background than yours.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 28 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.

(1) Although the location of Hu Village is no longer known, its inhabitants were said to be – at least according to the compilers of the Analects – an ornery lot that didn’t have much truck with outsiders. Note how Confucius uses this incident as “teachable moment” to remind his followers of the importance of remaining open-minded towards others no matter where they came from.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.

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