Improving Yourself

When you see good, then diligently examine your own behavior; when you see evil, then with sorrow look into yourself. When you find good in yourself, steadfastly approve it; when you find evil in yourself, hate it as something loathsome. He who comes to you with censure is your teacher; he who comes with approbation is your friend; but he who flatters you is your enemy. Therefore the gentleman honors his teacher, draws close to his friends, but heartily hates his enemies. He loves good untiringly and can accept reprimand and take warning from it. Therefore though he may have no particular wish to advance, how can he help but do so? The petty man is just the opposite. He behaves in an unruly way and yet hates to have others censure him; he does unworthy deeds and yet wants others to regard him as worthy. He has the heart of a tiger or a wolf, the actions of a beast, yet resents it when others look upon him as an enemy. He draws close to those who flatter him and is distant with those who reprimand him; he laughs at upright men and treats as enemies those who are loyal. Therefore, though he certainly has no desire for ruin, how can he escape it? This is what is meant by the lines in the Odes:
They league together, they slander;
It fills me with sorrow.
When advice is good
They all oppose it.
When advice is bad,
They follow all together.
("Lesser Odes," Hsiao-min,, Mao text no. 195.)

If your will is well disciplined, you may hold up your head before wealth and eminince; if you are rich in righteous ways, you may stand unmoved before kings and dukes. Look well inside yourself and you may look lightly upon outside things. This is what the old text means when it says, The gentleman uses things; the petty man is used by things." Though it may mean labor for the body, if the mind finds peace in it, do it. Though there may be little profit in it, if there is much righteousness, do it. Rather than achieve success in the service of an unpricipled ruler, it is better to follow what is right in the service of an impoverished one. A good farmer does not give up plowing just because of flood or drought; a good merchant does not stop doing business just because of occaisional losses; a gentleman does not neglect the Way just because of poverty and hardship.

If you are respectful in bearing and sincere in heart, if you abide by ritual priciples and are kindly to others, then you may travel all over the world and, though you may choose to live among the barbarian tribes, everyone will honor you. If you are the first to undertake hard work and can leave ease and enjoyment to others, if you are honest and trustworthy, persevering, and meticulous in your job, then you can travel all over the world and, though you may live among the barbarians, everyone will want to employ you. But if your bearing is arrogant and your heart is deceitful, if you follow dark and injurious ways, and are inconsistent and vile in feeling, then you may travel all over the world and, though you penetrate to every corner of it, there will be no one who does not despise you. If you are shiftless and evasive when it comes to hard work but keen and unrestrained in the pursuit of pleasure, if you are dishonest and insincere, concerned only with your own desires and unattentive to your work then you may travel all over the world and, though you penetrate to every corner of it, there will be no one who does not reject you.

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