Confucius Comments on Vanity vs. Virtue

Zheng Nianxing

PureInsight | November 14, 2008

[] One day, one of Confucius’ disciples, Zi Lu, dressed up ostentatiously and visited Confucius. Confucius asked him, "Zhongyou (calling Zi Lu by his nick name), what are you so proud of? When the Yangzee River originates from the Min Mountains, its power is so limited that it can only carry empty wine vessels. But when it arrives at the sea it is so powerful that it can easily turn over a boat trying to cross it. Isn't it because the river has more water downstream? Now you, all dressed up and proud looking, seem to be ready to boss people around who would dare tell you about your shortcomings?" Zi Lu quickly walked out of the room and came back after changing into something more casual. Confucius said, "Zhongyou, remember that those who talk too much are insubstantial, those who like to show off are boastful, and those who cannot restrain their intellect and capabilities are men without virtue.”

"Therefore, a man of virtue speaks only what he knows, which is the purpose of speech. He won't lie if he is incapable of doing something, which is the guiding principle of actions. If one speaks with sense, that is wisdom. If one acts with principles, that is virtue. If one has both wisdom and virtue, what else does one need?"

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