Category Archives: Confucianism


The Chinese teacher and philosopher, K’ung Fu-tzu, or as we say in the West, Confucius, lived from 551–479 BC.  Although Confucius understood that perfectionism was impossible in an individual’s life, he believed that a society could become near perfect if its people embraced “beautiful conduct” towards each other.  Confucius taught five fundamental ideas about how we should treat others:

  1. Always be considerate to others.
  2. Respect your ancestors.
  3. Try for harmony and balance in all things.
  4. Avoid extremes in behavior and emotion.
  5. If you live in peace and harmony, including with nature, then you are a spiritual person.


Confucius also promulgated five basic virtues which to which he believed each human should strive:

1) Kindness; 2) Righteousness; 3) Sobriety; 4) Wisdom; and  5) Trustworthiness.

Confucius taught that your well-being depends directly on the well-being of others. He called this principle Jen. Jen means always affording courtesy and loyalty to others.  Confucius believed in the importance of relationships, personal and governmental morality, justice for all, and being sincere in all of one’s dealings.

One of his most fundamental ideas was the teaching that every person should cherish the aspiration to become a “superior man.”  By this term, Confucius did not mean “perfect.”  He meant superior to others, if possible, but mostly he thought it was critical that we all strive to become superior to the person we used to be yesterday and continue that personal growth throughout our lives. The desire to excel, he believed, universally appeals to all humans and when properly nourished becomes the foundational method for living a great life, possessing transforming power, and a key to having compelling vigor for living life.

We Must Strive to Become That Which We Are Capable Of - Confucius

We Must Strive to Become That Which We Are Capable Of – Confucius

Confucius often proffered the attributes of the ‘superior man’ in the form of brief sayings (and no, not bundled inside of fortune cookies).  He encouraged his followers to admire these sayings without ceasing, to emulate them without turning, and to imitate them without hindrance.  We have placed a few of these below for your consideration.

Confucius’ highest ideal, what he says each human should strive for, is that person’s own improvement.  He promotes personal development as a task at which we must never cease so we may “abide in the highest excellence.” According to Confucius, this goal of lifetime personal development, while impossible in the absolute, must always be kept prominently in mind so that we may become the best of which we are capable of being.  Confucius claims that if we make a firm commitment to do so that we immediately  attain unperturbed resolve; which leads to tranquil poise; that poise results in deliberate care; and such care will lead us to achieving the goal of becoming the person we are designed to become.

Yin and Yang:  Living a Life of Balance and in Harmony

Yin and Yang: Living a Life of Balance and in Harmony

We would all do well to pick out the sayings of Confucius that resonate with us, print them out and hang them in our home or office, and meditate upon them for a few minutes each day.  Or, as Uncle Ralph encouraged:  “Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Art of Living. “The practice of right-living is deemed the highest, the practice of any other art lower. Complete virtue takes first place; the doing of anything else whatsoever is subordinate.” (Li Ki, bk. xvii., sect. iii., 5.)

Personal Growth: “The progress of the superior man is upward, the progress of the ordinary man is downward.” (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxiv.) “The superior man is distressed by his want of ability; he is not distressed by men’s not knowing him.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xviii.)

Life Purpose: “The superior man learns in order to attain to the utmost of his principles.” (Analects, bk. xix., c. vii.)

Veracity: “What the superior man requires is that in what he says there may be nothing inaccurate.” (Analects, bk. xiii., c. iii., v. 7.) “The object of the superior man is truth.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.) “The superior man is anxious lest he should not get truth; he is not anxious lest poverty come upon him.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.)

Personal Integrity: “The superior man must be watchful over himself when alone.” (Great Learning, vi., 2.)

Being Sincere: “Is it not his absolute sincerity which distinguishes a superior man?” (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xiii., 4.)  “The superior man must make his thoughts sincere.” (Great Learning, vi., 4.) “The superior man wishes to be slow in his words and earnest in his conduct.” (Analects, bk. iv., c. xxiv.)

Confucius:  Wisdom not Fortune Cookies

Confucius: Wisdom not Fortune Cookies

Internal Frame of Reference (or Inner Locus of Control): “What the superior man seeks, is in himself; what the ordinary man seeks, is in others.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xx.)  The superior man in the world does not set his mind either for anything or against anything; what is right, he will follow.” (Analects, bk. iv., c. x.)

Confidence: “When internal examination discovers nothing wrong, what is there to be anxious about, what is there to fear?” (Analects, bk. xi., c. iv., v. 3.)”The superior man is satisfied and composed; the ordinary man is always full of distress.” (Analects, bk. vii., c. xxxvi.) “The superior man may indeed have to endure want; but the ordinary man, when he is in want, gives way to unbridled license.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. i., v. 3.)

Courage: “The superior man has neither anxiety nor fear.” (Analects, bk. xii., c. iv., v. i.)

Ethics: “The superior man thinks of virtue; the ordinary man thinks of comfort.” (Analects, bk. iv., c. xi.) ” The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the ordinary man is conversant with gain.” (Analects, bk. iv., c. xxi.) ” The superior man in all things considers righteousness essential.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xvii.)

Decisiveness: “Refusing to surrender their wills or to submit to any taint to their persons.” (Analects, bk. xviii., c. viii., v. 2.) “The superior man is correctly firm and not merely firm.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxvi.) “Looked at from a distance, he appears stern; when approached, he is mild; when he is heard to speak, his language is firm and decided.” (Analects, bk. xix., c. ix.)

Humbleness: “The superior man is affable but not adulatory; the ordinary man is adulatory but not affable.” (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxiii.)

Propensity for Good: “The superior man seeks to develop the admirable qualities of men and does not seek to develop their evil qualities. The ordinary man does the opposite of this.” (Analects, bk. xii., c. xvi.) “To be able to judge others by what is in ourselves, this may be called the art of virtue.” (Analects, bk. vi., c. xxviii., v. 3.)

How is Your Outlook?

How is Your Outlook?

Poise: “The superior man in his thought does not go out of his place.” (Analects, bk. xiv., c. xxviii.)

Thoroughness:  “The superior man in everything puts forth his utmost endeavors.” (Great Learning, ii., 4.)

Attentiveness: “The superior man bends his attention to what is radical. That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up.” (Analects, bk. i., c. ii., v. 2.)

Dignity: “The superior man has dignified ease without pride; the ordinary man has pride without dignified ease.” (Analects, bk. xiii., c. xxvi.) “The superior man is dignified and does not wrangle.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxi.)

Praising Others: “The superior man honors talent and virtue and bears with all. He praises the good and pities the incompetent.” (Analects, bk. xix., c. iii.) “The superior man does not promote a man on account of his words, nor does he put aside good words on account of the man.” (Analects, bk. xv., c. xxii.)

Adherence to the Golden Rule: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others.” (Doctrine of the Mean, c. xiii., v. 3.)

From my heart to yours,

Scotty b.

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