The theme of benevolence is the core theme throughout the Analects. Benevolence is defined as the desire to do well to others, or to perform kind, charitable acts. Benevolence has three levels: personal, social and political. By reflecting on one’s faults and words, one can bring themselves to eventual improvement and make the development of character and virtue possible. The reflection of one’s self is being personally benevolent. To be socially benevolent is to be benevolent with family and friends, such as following the filial piety. To be politically benevolent is to make one worthy of governing a nation.
A man who is unsuccessful at being benevolent is unworthy. Confucius states, “Wealth and rank attained through immoral means have as much to do with me as passing clouds. (VII, 16, 88)” Within the Analects, it states “When you meet someone better than yourself, turn your thoughts to becoming his equal. When you meet someone not as good as you are, look within and examine your own self. (IV, 17, 74)” This quote shows that you always need to work and reflect on yourself, which is considered personal benevolence. There is always a need to better yourself, because no one in the world is perfect.
We all have our own flaws, but we tend to point out the flaws in others, rather than point out flaws in ourselves. Confucius also stated, “Wealth and high station are what men desire but unless I got them in the right way I would not remain in them. Poverty and low station are what men dislike, but even if I did not get them in the right way I would not try to escape from them. (IV, 5, 72)” We have to be true with ourselves and get things that we desire truthfully and honestly. If we do not get those things honestly, then we as humans are unworthy of our lives.
That is why when people steal from others, they go to jail and get fined. You have to work for what you want and get it honestly, instead of stealing from others who have worked hard for what they got. Confucius himself was a benevolent man in my eyes; he earned and worked for what he wanted. “At 15 I set my heart on learning; at 30 I took my stand; at 40 I came to be free from doubts; at 50 I understood the Decree of Heaven; at 60 my ear was attuned; at 70 I followed my heart’s desire without overstepping the line. (II, 4, 63)” Confucius believed in effort to perfect human life.
The fully realized person attains that status through effort, not because he was born with some special endowment or talent that the rest of us do not possess. Becoming an accomplished person is not comparable to having a lot of money in the bank. It is not a matter of possessions or degrees or patents or Nobel prizes. It is a style of life, an ethical attitude, a lifelong sense of monitoring one’s behavior in order to improve it. Confucius suggests that you can save yourself. Things that can make our life is extraordinary are just within our grasp if we make the effort.
Being personally benevolent is the first step to becoming benevolent because you have to be true, trustworthy, and respectful to yourself before you can be socially benevolent. The next step in being benevolent is being benevolent to your family and friends. Confucius states, “The gentleman devotes his efforts to his roots, for once the roots are established, the Way will grow therefrom. Being good as a son and obedient as a young man is, perhaps, the root of a man’s character. (I, 2, 59)” In order to help others, then, it is best that one focus one’s efforts on one’s own character.
If one succeeds in developing a better and better ethical character, then one will succeed inevitably with respect to becoming a ‘polestar’. People will look up to you, and emulate your behavior. So if you have a good character, they will try to acquire the traits (or virtues) that you possess . To be a good son you must not make any changes to your fathers ways after he is dead, which means being respectful of the way he did things. To be a good child the analects states, “Give your father and mother no other cause for anxiety than illness. II, 6, 64)” Your parents are the people who gave you the chance to live this miraculous life, so you should help them in any way possible and be respectful no matter what.
The analects states, To be trustworthy in word is close to being moral in that it enables one’s words to be repeated. To be respectful is close to being observant of the rites that it enables one to stay clear of disgrace and insult. If, in promoting good relationships with relatives by marriage, a man manages not to lose the good will of his own kinsmen, he is worthy of being looked up as the head of the clan. I, 13, 61) In order to be the head of the clan, you had to be respected and you had to respect your parents or you were considered unworthy. In the Chinese culture after the father dies, the oldest son normally becomes the head of the clan, but if the son is not benevolent and does not follow the filial piety, he is unworthy of taking over. Like stated earlier in this paragraph, once the son takes over he has to be respectful of his father’s ways and not change anything or he will also become unworthy.
Confucius mentions the filial piety throughout the analects. Filial piety is another virtue in which Confucius sees as important; this virtue is the primary duty of respect, obedience, and care for one’s parents and elderly family members. Confucius states, “When your parents are alive, comply with the rites in serving them; when they die, comply with the rites in burying them; comply with the rites in sacrificing to them. (II, 5, 63) Integration of family is a necessary starting point for attaining a well-controlled country or a peaceful world.
As to the relations within a family, the Chinese people emphasize the relation between parents and children, particularly emphasizing children’s love and respect for their parents. So, Chinese family life is, in reality, the life of filial piety. Even up to now, Chinese families are still controlled by the reflective power of the concept of filial piety. In addition to its control of family life, filial piety has also powerfully controlled the social life and many other aspects of Chinese culture. So, filial piety is not only a foundation of morality, but also a fundamental basis of Chinese culture.
You first have to learn to be trustworthy and respectful to your family before you can make it to the next step and become politically benevolent. The next step is to be politically benevolent, which means to make one worthy of governing a nation. Depicting benevolence in mind and in actions will win the hearts of others. Confucius states, “Raise the straight and set them over the crooked and the common people will look up to you. Raise the crooked and set them over the straight and the common people will not look up to you. II, 19, 65)” What Confucius means is that a ruler must provide the means to correct any wrongs, thus creating a deep-rooted trust. If a ruler was to ignore natural and human wrongs, or even promote them, his subjects would ignore his rule in turn. He wants us to promote the honest. Promote those who can objectively or truthfully demonstrate excellence. Everyone professes this, but what do we see at our jobs and in politics? Flattery, malicious conniving ; covert bribery (“you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”) seem to be the road to progress.
The one thing conniving, or “real-world” tactics, cannot produce is respect. Trust between a ruler and his subjects are the first of three essentials that produce a strong ruler. A ruler can lose adequate troops to protect his subjects, but still be strong. Adequate food can also be removed from a ruler’s subjects; however, with trust in the ruler to provide necessities regardless of a flux in provisions, the ruler will remain strong. Confucius wanted people to promote others to do their best with enthusiasm.
Confucius states, “Rule over them with dignity and they will be reverent; treat them with kindness and they will do their best; raise the good and instruct those who are backward and they will be imbued with enthusiasm. (II, 19, 65)” In his answer, Confucius means that subjects can be virtuous only by virtuous example. “Raise[ing] the good” entails the ruler providing in a similar capacity to “raise[ing] the straight. ” If the ruler cultivates himself, leading a life of virtue and decorum, then the subjects will have trust and be loyal.
Rather than reaching for material gain, the ruler must adhere to benevolent actions and reach for what is right. Kindness, which is integral to humanity and benevolence, indicates a good ruler. However, Confucius is not promoting a lax policy. In “treat[ing] them [his subjects] with kindness,” Confucius means that those who follow in their benevolent ruler’s example should be rewarded. Those who violate policy should receive punishment appropriate for their disobedience. A ruler who rewards and punishes appropriately will be effective.
This quote makes me think of when I was back in middle school, and we had to read the AR books. The teachers would help out those who read the books, but if you did not read or try to read she would not help. Those who did well on their test got cool prizes, so it made everyone else read and try to do well on the test, so they could get the cool prizes as well. Everyone should aim at being benevolent, or being kind to others around you. There are three levels of benevolence, which are personal, social, and political.
Personal benevolence is reflecting on your flaws and making yourself a better person and making an effort to get what you desire. Social benevolence is respecting, and caring for your family and friends. Political benevolence is promoting others to do their best and make them worthy of governing a nation. A person who is not benevolent is unworthy. As Confucius stated, “Wealth and rank attained through immoral means have as much to do with me as passing clouds. (VII, 16, 88)”
Confucius, and D. C. Lau. The Analects (Lun Yu). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. Print.