To see the right and not to do it is cowardice. ~ Confucius
What does that mean?
To me, this quote sounds a little clunky. I presume it has to do with how and when it was translated. I would reword it to say “To see and know what the correct thing to do is and to refuse to do it; that is cowardice.” Does that make it a little clearer? At least that’s what it sounds like to me. I believe that the meaning is unchanged.
He councils us to do what is right when we see it. He also warns us that to knowingly refuse to do what is right is, by his definition, cowardice. As an example, if you saw someone taking something that wasn’t theirs, but you remained silent, that was cowardice.
Why is doing the right thing important?
There is much that is wrong in the world. If we see something that is wrong and we can (and should) do something about it, yet do not, we show cowardice. We also become part of the problem. By allowing something that we know is wrong to occur (and by knowing it is wrong, we know what is correct or right) and doing nothing (refusing to do what is right), we have become part of the problem. We have become part of what is wrong with the world.
While I talk of “the world,” understand that our own house, neighborhood, community, town, city and country have things happening in them that are not right. If we allow this activity to go unchallenged, we are not only exhibiting cowardice, but we are becoming part of the problem. When we see something that is not right, we have a moral obligation to act, to not be cowards, and to try to make things right.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Please don’t misunderstand me when I say we must act. We must first use our intelligence. If you were at a bank and three big burly men came in with guns drawn, while it might be a moral obligation to try to stop them, the obligation ceases when action equates to suicide. So don’t be a hero, unless you have the skills to come out in one piece (and not get anyone else killed in the process).
What kind of neighborhood do you live in? Is it the kind of neighborhood where people look out for each other, or do you close the curtains when something bad is happening to a neighbor? What kind of people does that make you and your neighbors? Is this a place where doing the right thing would be important?
When you see kids bullying another kid, do you step in and try to break it up? Do you report the kids to their parents? Even if you know the parents will do nothing substantial, you should do it, because it’s the right thing to do. Why should you feel embarrassed knocking on their door? You weren’t the one behaving badly.
How is your town or city organized? Do the dead people vote? Having grown up in the Greater Chicago-land area, I often wonder for whom my grandparents voted this most recent election. As I no longer live there, it’s hard to check on these things. However if you live in an area where the politicians are either corrupt, incompetent (elected because of who they know or to whom they are related) or otherwise ignoring the will of the people, should you do something about it, or close the curtains?
How do you handle things in your house? If one of the household tells a lie, are they called on it, or are certain people allowed more latitude than others? Is this right? Is it cowardice not to treat all with the same even hand? (Note: I would leave small children out of this, as their level of maturity and understanding is not fully developed – same for those with mental disorders.) The same goes for stealing. It sets a bad example when one child gets nothing but giggles for stealing a chocolate chip cookie, but another gets sent to their room.
Doing what you know is right might not always be the easiest thing to do, but it must be done. Be brave, do the correct thing and not chicken out (don’t be a coward). Like any other behavior, it will take repetition to build this muscle. Start as small as you need to, but get as many repetitions in as you can. With practice, it will become your default behavior, and you will be known as a just and honest person. Even today, that is something to be proud of, I think.
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/confucius164272.html
Photo by Bob n Renee