Recently, while having lunch with a friend, I was reminded of this quotation from the Analects of Confucius:
[7:22] Confucius said: “When three men are walking together, there is one who can be my teacher. I pick out people’s good and follow it. When I see their bad points, I correct them in myself.” (trans. A.C. Muller)
In this age of spiritual shopping, we like our beliefs to be non-confrontational. We have a wealth of information, plenty of books on sale in stores, and plenty of teachers, coaches and gurus who would be happy to make us feel better for a modest fee.
It’s nice when god always agrees with us.1
But really this isn’t religion, it’s self-flattery. The reason why Confucius’s legacy has lasted so long in Asia, and now the world, is that he never stopped challenging himself to improve, and taught his disciples to do likewise.
Confucius was humble enough to reflect upon his faults and strive to correct them by following the good examples in others. This is someone anyone can do if they can let go of pride and conceit, and strive to cultivate themselves. As the linked comic shows, it’s not an easy path, but far more rewarding in the long-run.
1 One of my favorite scenes from the excellent Sluggy Freelance comic.