Tag Archives: trustworthiness

Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on rightness

Rightness

Rightness (義/) means having the moral disposition to instinctively or spontaneously do the right thing or act in the right way in any given situation. Alternative translations include “righteousness”, “propriety”, “morality”, “appropriateness”, and “what is right”. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on rightness

Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness

Trust

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”. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness

Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on loyalty

Confucius on loyalty

Loyalty (忠/zhōng) is one of what some commentators classify as the secondary values of Confucius. It is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn). The first instance of this pairing can be found in Chapter 8 of Book 1 in which Confucius advised that a leader (君子/ jūnzǐ) should: “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on loyalty

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: self-reflection

self-reflection

曾子曰:「吾日三省吾身,為人謀而不忠乎?與朋友交而不信乎?傳不習乎?」
Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?” (1)

Introspection or self-reflection is critical for a leader. It can be all too easy to lose touch with reality when you’re in a cocoon surrounded by people whose careers and livelihoods depend on making sure that you’re kept satisfied. Very few people have the courage to call you out if they think you’re making the wrong decision or going beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.

Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: self-reflection

Recycling

子夏曰:「小人之過也必文。」
Zixia said: “A petty person always tries to gloss over his mistakes.”

子夏曰:「君子有三變:望之儼然,即之也溫,聽其言也厲。」
Zixia said: “A leader has three different aspects: from a distance, he looks stern; close up, he looks warm; when you hear his voice, he sounds serious.

子夏曰:「君子信而後勞其民,未信則以為厲己也。信而後諫,未信則以為謗己也。」
Zixia said: “A leader only mobilizes the people for labor after earning their trust. If he hasn’t earned his trust, the people will feel they are being exploited. He only offers criticism to his lord after earning his trust. If he hasn’t earned his trust, the lord will feel he is being slandered.”

Zixia is certainly on a roll, though he is merely recycling points already made by Confucius rather than adding any fresh new insights to them or developing them any further. Continue reading Recycling

A fine line

子曰:「由也,女聞六言六蔽矣乎?」對曰:「未也。」「居!吾語女。好仁不好學,其蔽也愚;好知不好學,其蔽也蕩;好信不好學,其蔽也賊;好直不好學,其蔽也絞;好勇不好學,其蔽也亂;好剛不好學,其蔽也狂。」
Confucius said: “Zilu, have you heard of the six virtues and their six attendant vices?” “No, I haven’t.” “Sit down, and I will tell you. Loving goodness without loving learning leads to ignorance. Loving knowledge without loving learning leads to foolishness. Loving trustworthiness without loving learning leads to criminality. Loving frankness without loving learning leads to offensiveness. Loving valor without loving learning leads to chaos. Loving steadfastness without loving learning leads to recklessness.”

I wish I could find a better way of rendering the first sentence (言/yán literally means “words”) but the point that Confucius makes to Zilu is clear: even the most positive personal qualities need to be carefully cultivated in order make sure they don’t turn into negatives. Continue reading A fine line

Doing well by doing good

子張問「仁」於孔子。孔子曰:「能行五者於天下,為仁矣。」「請問之?」曰:「恭、寬、信、敏、惠。恭則不侮,寬則得眾,信則人任焉,敏則有功,惠則足以使人。」
Zizhang asked Confucius about goodness. Confucius said: “Whoever is capable of putting five qualities into practice throughout the world is good.” “And what are those?” “Respectfulness, tolerance, trustworthiness, enthusiasm, and generosity. If you are respectful, you will not be insulted by others; if you are tolerant, you will win people’s hearts; if you are trustworthy, people will entrust you with responsibility; if you are enthusiastic, you will be successful; if you are generous, you will be capable of managing other people.”

The practical reasons for cultivating “goodness” are at least as strong as the altruistic ones. To use the common English idiom that may or not have been coined by Benjamin Franklin, it’s about doing well by doing good. Continue reading Doing well by doing good

Short shrift

樊遲請學稼,子曰:「吾不如老農。」請學為圃,曰:「吾不如老圃。」樊遲出,子曰:「小人哉,樊須也!上好禮,則民莫敢不敬;上好義,則民莫敢不服;上好信,則民莫敢不用情。夫如是,則四方之民,襁負其子而至矣;焉用稼!」
Fan Chi asked to learn about cultivating grain. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old farmer.” Fan Chi asked to be taught about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a small-minded man! If a ruler loves the rites, the people would not dare to be disrespectful. If a ruler loves rightness, the people would not dare to be disobedient. If a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people would not dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to him from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to know about farming?”

Some modern critics seized on these comments from Confucius as proof that that he held back the technological development of China with his alleged disdain for practical subjects such as agriculture. Continue reading Short shrift