Story from History: Benevolence Can Move a Thief


PureInsight | September 24, 2006

[] Chen Shi was
a county magistrate. One day, a thief hid on top of the rafter in
Chen's house, waiting to steal things from the house after everyone in
the house left. Chen Shi saw him. He asked his son to come and
instructed him, "Some people do bad deeds. It is not because their
nature is bad, but merely because of their old habits. The man on the
rafter is just this type." When he heard it, the thief came down from
the rafter and apologized to Chen Shi by kneeling before him. Chen Shi
said, "You don't look like a bad man. That you want to steal must be
caused by your poor living conditions." Then Chen Shi gave the man two
rolls of clothes. The thief was so touched that he never stole again.

Yu Lingyi in Ming Dynasty was a loyal and honest man. He never did
anything harmful to other people in order to benefit himself. When he
became elderly, his family was quite wealthy. One day a thief tried to
steal things from his house. Yu Lingyi's sons caught the thief who
turned out to be their neighbor's son. Yu Lingyi said, "You rarely
commit any wrong deeds. Why do you want to be thief now?" The man
answered, "It is all because we are too poor." Yu Lingyi asked him what
he wanted. He said, "Ten thousand copper coins would be enough for me
to buy food and clothes." So Yu Lingyi gave him ten thousand copper
coins. Right after the thief left, Yu Lingyi called him back. At that
moment, the thief was very frightened, thinking Yu had changed his
mind. Yu Lingyi said, "You are very poor. But now you are taking ten
thousand copper coins back home. I am afraid that you will be
questioned by the patrol." So he let the man stay in his house until
daybreak. The thief felt very ashamed of his conduct. From then on, he
only did good deeds. The villagers all acclaimed Yu Lingyi as a good

Kong Min from Huainan was a recluse in the countryside. He devoted
himself to cultivation. He made a decision not to strive for any
official position all his life and he was known for his noble
integrity. A man repeatedly stole bamboo from his garden. Kong Min felt
sorry for the thief because the thief had to wade through chilly river
water to get to the garden. Hence he built a bridge for the thief to
get to the garden. Sensing Kong Min's benevolence upon him, the thief
felt ashamed of what he had done.

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