Selected Passages from "Yuan’s Model Conduct in Society" (Part 9)
19) Observe propriety and suppress desires
Eating and drinking are human necessities that can also be desires. If indulged in excess, that would be gluttonous. The relationship between man and woman is a desire, and is also necessary for sustaining society. If one adopts inappropriate means to satisfy oneself, that is adulterous. Money and property are what everyone seeks, and they are indispensable. But if one obtains it by illegal means, that is plunder.
If people only indulge their desires, it will lead to disputes, and even culminate in a lawsuit. Ancient sages and kings had thought about all these issues, hence they formulated rules of etiquette to restrain one's indulgence in food and in one's behavior in relationships between man and woman. They also developed moral principles to restrict one's acquisition of wealth and property.
A noble person is well aware of the need for food, relationship between man and woman, and wealth. But he does not openly seek them, let alone seek them in wanton excess. A sly person is just the opposite.
20) "Looking but not caring to see"; clearing and severing desires
Sages have said, "[by] not looking at things that could arouse desires, one would not be bedazzled." This is a secret to avoiding a number of troubles. In general, people's appetite is aroused at the sight of delicious food, one cannot help but gaze at stunning beauty, and one can become greedy in their relationship with money. It's inevitable unless one has exceptional self-control. Only by fundamentally extirpating the roots of these desires and paying no attention when encountering them, will the wanton wishful thinking not arise. Without such thoughts, no wrong deeds will ensue.
21) Do Not Hurt People's Feelings with Words
Often, close friends, beloved relatives, and old acquaintances become estranged, not because of what they say, but rather because of how they say it, such as when they have a rude attitude or tone. If we can keep our attitudes gentle and polite, when we point out others' shortcomings with direct and straight words, they will not be offended even if they do not heed our advice. On the other hand, when we speak tersely, then even if we do not mean to alienate others, they will often feel offended, if not outright angry.
Ancient people said, "If you get angry at home, it will be hard not to bring your anger to the outside." If you are angry while having a conversation, you definitely will not be humble, and others will be puzzled by your attitude. Therefore we must be even more cautious in speaking to others when we feel angry. Old sages said, "Try not to speak out after drinking alcohol, try not to get angry while having a meal, try to endure things that are overwhelming, and do not argue with people who are arrogant." We can benefit greatly by persistently observing such etiquette.
22) Win Over Others with Virtues and Talents
Regardless of physical appearances, people with high standards of virtue and conduct will naturally be respected by others. Regardless of how well they communicate, people with superb talents will naturally be held in high regard.