Speak Softly…

While reading Tsai Chih-Chung’s comic rendition of the Analects of Confucius, I found this quotation, which I liked a lot. This is translation in particular is from Prof. Charles Muller’s online version of Analects, and a great version in its own right:

[14:27] Confucius said: “The Gentleman is humble in his speech but superb in his actions.”

It’s such a simple quote, but it’s a reminder I think of some very important traits worth cultivating. A gentleman, in Confucius’s view, is reserved, not brazen and his actions speak louder than words. That’s why Confucius placed such value in things like virtue, conduct and so on. If you’re conduct is sincere it speaks for itself.

But it’s also a reminder to not brag either. Bragging is a sign of selfishness and showing off, and against the Confucian notion of reciprocity, which is about helping one another, not personal gain. So there’s nothing to boast about, and one simply takes pride in doing a job well-done. I’m often inspired by another quotation from the Analects by Confucius’s disciple, Ceng-zi, which is also available online:1

[1:4] Cengzi said: “Each day I examine myself in three ways: in doing things for others, have I been disloyal? In my interactions with friends, have I been untrustworthy? Have not practiced what I have preached?”

Here the concern is not personal gain, but doing what’s ethical and what’s right. This falls under the central, but nebulous Confucian concept of rén2 (仁) which means “benevolence, righteousness, humane” among other things. It’s no wonder Ceng-zi was among Confucius’s most celebrated and virtuous disciples: he never stopped reflecting on himself and his actions and wasn’t afraid to improve accordingly. Everyone around him benefitted in the process. :)

P.S. I was going to post this later, but I felt it coincided with this recent post, and was a bit too short on its own.

1 Pronunciation in modern Mandarin sounds like: tsuhng (rhymes with tongue) and tsih (rhymes with ill without the “L”). Mandarin actually isn’t hard to pronounce once you get familiar with a few things. In this day and age, learning a little Mandarin here and there is time well-spent. :)

2 Rhymes with English word “run” with a rising tone.

One Comment on “Speak Softly…”

  1. Tornadoes28 says:

    That is definitely some good advice to follow.

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