Selected Passages from "Yuan’s Model Conduct in Society" (Part 7)
14) Mistakes happen, but it's never too late to mend them
Even sages make mistakes, let alone everyday people who are not sages. How can we demand that everything be done perfectly? If someone makes a mistake, no one would blame him except for his parents or siblings, and no one would put forward their admonitions except for his close friends. In general, people would only express their concern behind the person's back with their criticism and mockery.
A noble man with high virtue is always conscious of making mistakes, and quietly considers people's criticism of him. He will thank them if he hears criticism from them and will mend his faults quickly. A petty person with low virtue, on the other hand, will try to excuse himself with arguments, even at the price of cutting off friendships or resorting to lawsuits.
There is an example in the Analects of Confucius
in which the faults of a man are compared to eclipses. Eclipses happen temporarily and are visible to all, but people will still look at the moon or the sun as they normally do after the eclipse passes. In this metaphor it is pointed out that every person can make mistakes, but if he can mend them in time, he will still be respected by others as before. Confucius has said: "A mistake becomes a fault when one refuses to mend it." That is to say, if one refuses to mend himself after doing something wrong, he is really making a mistake. If we look at those people of great achievements in the past and contemporary times, we will find that most of them have the virtue of being glad to have their errors pointed out by others and will mend themselves once they know that they have been wrong. On the contrary, those who try to cover up their mistakes and refuse to mend them mostly end up with failures.
15) Be grateful and seek to repay kindness
People nowadays usually don't remember it when they receive kindness from other people, but if they give help to other people, even if it is just a trivial thing, they will clearly remember in their minds. Ancient people said, "Please don't remember the kindness that you give to other people, but don't forget the kindness that other people give to you." It is indeed difficult to follow this.
16) Do not accept others' kindness easily
Whether we reside at home or stay abroad, we cannot easily accept other people's kindness. Before I became successful, I often remembered it when I accepted other people's kindness. Every time when I saw the people who helped me, I felt awe and could often see by the look in their faces that they remembered that they had helped me. Now that I am successful, I want to repay those who have given me kindness, but it is hard to do so to all of them. However, I feel guilty when I do not repay them.
Therefore, even if it is just one meal or one wisp of silk, we cannot accept it easily. There was once a person who sought friends widely when serving as an official in the royal court. He was warned by elders who said, "If you accept too much favor from others, it will be difficult for you to get a foothold in the royal court." We should think carefully about these words.