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“Treating Others with Leniency and Latitude” – Stories Regarding Tolerance (Part 1)
An old saying in China reads: “Ancient gentlemen are strict with themselves down to the last detail, while treating others with leniency and giving them latitude.”
This means that they are very demanding of themselves so that they can improve. On the other hand, they treat others with tolerance, which requires one to be broadminded and kind.
April 27, 2013 | By Zhin Yen
An old saying in China reads: “Ancient gentlemen are strict with themselves down to the last detail, while treating others with leniency and giving them latitude.” This means that they are very demanding of themselves so that they can improve. On the other hand, they treat others with tolerance, which requires one to be broadminded and kind.
Zi Gong asked his teacher Confucius, “Is there a single word that I can follow as a guiding principle for my life?” Confucius replied, “Forgiveness is probably that word.”
Below are some stories from ancient times about forgiveness.
Song Jiu Repays Evil with Good
In the Warring States Period (722 BC to 481 BC), Song Jiu was a county governor in the state of Liang. His county was adjacent to the state of Chu. A post was set up on either side of the border. Those who worked at the posts on either side farmed melons. The Liang people were industrious, and they frequently irrigated their land, so their melons grew very well. The Chu people were lazy. They hardly ever watered the land, and their melons of course did not grow well.
Out of jealousy, the Chu people stomped on and broke the vines on the Liang side late one night. The Liang people reported the damage to Governor Song and wanted revenge. Song shook his head and said, “We should not do that. Making an enemy is a path to calamity. It would be too narrow-minded if we played tit for tat. I will give you a solution. We will send our people to the other side to secretly water their land every night, but we will not tell them.”
In the morning the Chu people saw that their crop had already been irrigated. With help from the Liang people, the melon vines in the state of Chu grew better day by day. The Chu people thought it strange at first. They secretly investigated and found out the reason. They were very moved and reported it to their central government. The king of the state of Chu subsequently apologized to the Liang people with generous gifts and asked them to pass along a message of friendship between the two states. Over time, the two states developed a long-lasting friendship, which started from the melon vine incident and how Song Jiu repaid an act of doing harm with an act of kindness.
General and Prime Minister Get Along Well
In the Warring States Period, Lin Xiangru was an envoy from the state of Zhao to the state of Qin. His performance eventually earned him the post of prime minister, a position above that of General Lian Po. Lian Po did not agree and said publicly, “I am a general, and I earned my status by conquering many cities. Lin Xiangru got a higher position just by talking. I shall embarrass him when I see him.” Hearing what he Lian Po said, Lin Xiangru tried to be tolerant and avoid a confrontation, including steering clear of Lian Po’s entourage when he saw them coming.
Lin Xiangru’s squires mistakenly thought that Lin was afraid of Lian Po. They told him, “We came to serve you because of your sublime virtue and morality. Although your position is higher, you are afraid of him and try to avoid him. Even an ordinary person would be ashamed to do that. Please grant us our leave.”
Lin Xiangru firmly asked them to stay and said, “Which person do you think is more powerful: Lian Po or the king of Qin?” “The King of the State of Qin, of course,” answered his squires, as the state of Qin was the most powerful at the time. Lin Xiangru then said, “I dared to argue with the King of of Qin and scold him. Even though my abilities are limited, why would I be afraid of General Lian? The reason the state of Qin has not dared to invade us is because of General Lian and me. Two tigers cannot co-exist if they fight. I tolerate his behavior and defer to him because I place the welfare of the nation over my own personal pride.” Hearing what Lin said, Lian Po came to apologize to him, saying, “I am much humbled. I did not expect you to be so tolerant of me!” All resentment between them disappeared, and they became close friends.
Being able to correct one’s mistakes has been considered a virtue since ancient times. The peoplel praised General Lian Po because he could sincerely repent and mend his ways. Lin Xiangru took a tolerant attitude during conflict and placed the nation’s interests above his personal pride.
The Prime Minister with a Broad Mind and Heart
During the Three Kingdoms Period (from 220 AD to 280 AD) in the state of Shu, Zhuge Liang, the Prime Minister, left a message for his King, Liu Shan, when he died. He recommended Jiang Wan to be appointed as prime minister. At that time, the people of Shu were fearful and uneasy because they had just lost their key leader and powerful enemies were threatening their borders. Although Jiang Wan was new to managing national affairs, he was calm and looked at the big picture. He was even-tempered and always appeared composed. Seeing how he conducted himself, the people’s anxiety subsided.
Jiang Wan was generous and kind. His subordinate, Yang Shi, was pretentious and often did not respond when Jiang Wan talked to him. Someone said to Jiang Wan, “It is too much that this Yang Shi slights you like that!” Jiang Wan smiled and said, “Like people’ faces, everyone’s thoughts are also different. The ancients did not agree to things to your face and then criticize you behind your back. It is not his temperament to praise me openly. He feels that I will lose face if he criticizes me in public. This is his character and something to be valued.”
Agricultural Governor Yang Min described Jiang Wan as “timid and inferior to his predecessor.” Someone reported this to Jiang Wan, intending that Yang be punished. Jiang Wan ignored him and said, “I am indeed inferior to my predecessor, without question.” When Yang Min committed a crime later, everyone thought that Jiang Wan would take the opportunity for revenge. Instead, Jiang Wan pleaded for leniency on his behalf. When people brought up Yang’s earlier slight, Jiang Wan calmly said, “It is a fact that I am truly not as good as our former prime minister. Everyone knows that, and there is no need to hide it. As for his crime today, I wish for him to be treated fairly.”