Virtue is the nature of conscience bestowed on humans by Heaven, and it is the most beautiful element in the essence of a human life. Therefore, the most important thing for a person is to maintain kindness and keep improving one’s morality. A true gentleman likes to read positive books and do good deeds. Not only that, he will also encourage and promote kind deeds in public and teach others to do the same. This way, people will become enlightened and live in peace and prosperity based on Heaven's principles. That is why an ancient saying stated, "A gentleman is one who treats others with benevolence." Examples of ancients offering advice on kind deeds are countless. The following are but a few.
In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC – 476 BC), Zilu (542 – 480 BC) of the State of Lu was an arrogant man. According to Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian)
, when Zilu went to see Confucius for the first time, he wore a feather on his head and a belt of wild boar to show his arrogance and belligerence. After Confucius told him about the virtue of modesty and the importance of learning, Zilu was moved and willingly changed into students' clothes to learn etiquette from Confucius. Teaching him the ways to be a gentleman and ways to govern, Confucius said, "Righteousness is most important for a gentleman. As a gentleman, bravery without righteousness is disorder; for a petty person, bravery without righteousness is theft. A gentleman seeks the great way, not the food, and he worries about the great way, not poverty.” “An official must set a good example for others; he must never be lax in working hard and caring for the people." Zilu followed Confucius on a tour of states, promoting virtue, and his own realm of mind kept transcending. He was faithful to his teacher and devoted to his state. Confucius praised him, "Zilu is always pleased to learn about his mistakes and never hesitates to redress them, and that's called 'progress'.” Later Zilu became an important official in Puyi County. Three years after he started governing the county with etiquette, Puyi turned into a peaceful and prosperous area, and the people there were all respectful of one another. Confucius attributed it all to his student's kindness.
Wu Qianjin of Shanxi Province in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD) was a strong and aggressive man. As a martial arts master, he tended to use his fists against anyone who happened to cross his path in fits of rage. He grabbed others' property and money at will, and everyone was afraid of him. One hot day, he went up to a terrace to cool off. People who were already on the terrace were terrified when they saw him and disappeared elsewhere. Only one old man stayed, fearless. Wu Qianjin said menacingly, "Everyone left except for you. Do you think my fists lack ferocity?" "You are completely mistaken," replied the old man. "Your parents raised you, hoping that you would be useful to the nation and the people. You are an expert in martial arts, and yet you never think of how to contribute to your country; rather, you are satisfied to be scum. The country has one less talented person. What a pity! What a pity!" Upon hearing the old man's words, Wu Qianjin said in remorseful tears, "Everyone around me said I was a bad guy, so I regarded myself as a bad guy. Your words today were like the sounds of the morning bell and evening drum, alarming my conscience. But I've been a bad person for so long now, I wonder if I can ever become a righteous gentleman even if I wanted to. It's like an eclipsed moon – difficult to become round again." The old man said, "If you were serious about amending your ways and started cultivating yourself and being a good person, I don't see why you couldn't." From then on Wu Qianjin changed and started serving his country. Later he became Deputy Marshal of the army. His strict and impartial command together with benevolence toward the people made him widely praised by the people.
Xiang is the half-brother of Emperor Shun (2294 – 2184 BC). He was arrogant and domineering and planned to harm Shun numerous times. Emperor Shun always touched Xiang with actions demonstrating virtue and filial piety. Eventually, Xiang repented and exchanged his misguided ways with kindness. Xiang appointed talented and virtuous people in his fiefdom of Youbi. He was diligent in governing with the goal of benefitting the people. The locals built a shrine to commemorate Xiang. This enlightened people to the fact that when a gentleman cultivates his own mortality, he can reform people as bad as Xiang. People further appreciated the depth and breadth of Shun’s high level of virtuous influence.
An ancient saying stated, "It's human to err, but to correct that error is an act of great kindness." To teach with virtue and to change with kindness may inspire people to reflect on the real meaning of human life and other ethics-related issues such as how to show love to others and avoid being lost in the pursuit of self-interest and pleasures. The power of kindness is tremendous, because it is omnipresent and capable of changing one's heart from its very core. It guides people in their pursuit and practice of truth, leads them back to their conscience, encourages them to make good and right choices, and dissolves everything that is unrighteous.