Leadership Lessons from Confucius: two ancient sayings

Confucius said: “‘Seeing goodness and pursuing it as if you will never be able to achieve it; seeing badness and recoiling from it as if you have been scalded by boiling water’ — I have seen such people and I have heard such words. ‘Living in seclusion to pursue your aspirations; doing what is right to attain the way’ — I have heard such words, but I have never seen such people.”
孔子曰:「見善如不及,見不善而探湯,吾見其人矣,吾聞其語矣!隱居以求其志,行義以達其道,吾聞其語矣,未見其人也!」

Actions are more important than words. Place greater store on what people do than what they say.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 11 of Book 16 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 16 here.

(1) It is not clear what point Confucius is trying to make by quoting these two ancient sayings in tandem. With the first one, he is perhaps implying that while he has seen some people who pursue goodness and recoil from badness, there are not enough of them to make a difference in the troubled times he lived in. With the second one, he may be taking a sarcastic crack at proto-Daoist aesthetes who gave up their official posts and retired to the countryside to maintain their moral purity. To him, escaping the everyday world, no matter how depraved and corrupt it may be, was the exact opposite of “doing what is right to attain the way.”

I took this image at Alishan in central Taiwan.

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I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

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Richard Brown

Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

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