Confucianism: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Confucius’s goal of his teachings in The Analect’s is to help people improve their character and behavior. Confucius describes the actions and the personality a man should have in order to be considered a gentleman/humane/virtuous. A person who takes into consideration how his actions and thoughts might affect others, then this person would be seen as a gentleman/humane/virtuous.

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A humane man should have is to be careful about what they say. In two separate books, Confucius talks about how actions are more important than words. In Book Four, he says 'The gentleman tends to be hesitant about speaking but quick to act.' Here Confucious is saying that your actions are more serious in comparison to your word. In Confucious’s point of view, it is better to speak in a hesitant way about yourself, whether it is your character or actions, as long as your intentions are to stay true and uphold these statements you make. In Book Two, he proceeds and says “He first puts his words into action. He then lets his words follow his action.' The point that Confucius is trying to show here is that overemphasize about yourself and your actions while speaking is easy to do. In reality, it is more difficult to perform these actions than to speak of your actions. A person’s actions show who he truly is; for this reason it is better if you actually perform the action in front of people then speak about them instead of saying that you will do something. Confucious ideas exemplify the statement that actions speak louder than words

Confusious says that learning is intertwined with thinking and self-reflection. These three things together help a person become more virtuous. He explains that, in Book Four, by saying: “When you meet a worthy person, think how you could become his equal. When you meet an unworthy person, turn inward and examine your own conduct.' In order for us to become better we have to observe and learn from others in order to do so. When seeing a good person we should try to find a way to become like this person. While when seeing a bad person, you should not judge them. Instead we have to reflect and see whether our characters are like theirs or worse; if it is then we try to better ourselves by staying away from these negative characteristics. Learning and thinking are dependent on one another; you can not have one without the other. Book Two states 'If you learn but do not think, you will be dazed. If you think but do not learn, you will be in danger.' The first statement means that gaining knowledge and just memorizing it without actually processing what this knowledge means and how to properly use it is a waste of time. Knowledge by itself is meaningless if it is not utilized. For Confucius, to put learning to use is to think and employ the knowledge you have gained to better the society and the self. The second statement explains that thoughts do not mean anything if they are not based on real learning. Confucius’s lack of knowledge in the field of thought is not only inadequate to establish the transformation of self and society toward humaneness and goodness, but it is harmful. Confucious uses the philosopher Zeng to explain what our self-reflection should be like. In Book One, Master Zeng says “Every day I examine myself on three points. When I worked to benefit someone else, did I do my best? In my relationship with my friends, did I fail to be trustworthy? Did I pass on any knowledge I myself had not put into practice.' Here Zeng is taking us through his self-reflection routine. This routine focuses on your actions towards others and yourself. Your actions should be beneficial towards others. When it comes to yourself, you should always try to reflect on the teaching you learned and incorporate in your life.

Confucious mentions in a number of passages about “The Way”. The Way is the ideal path a person should follow when it comes to their actions. Confucious mentions how powerful The Way is in Book Four when he says: “If I should hear The Way in morning, I would feel alright die in the evening' It might take a person their whole life to be able to master walking in the right path since it's not easy, but a single day of genuinely trying to walk the right path can fully change a person. The goal of The Way is to push you to do practices that establish harmony. Philosopher You provides an explanation in Book One when he says, 'Harmony is what is most prized in the practice of rites. It is what makes the way of the former kings beautiful, and this [principle] applies to matters big and small. Yet it does not always work: if you want to achieve harmony [in everything] because you know it is the ideal and do not let the rite of the rules guide your action, it will not work.” The Way provided ancient kings harmony. The word harmony in the context can be interpreted as full greatness. Despite that, obtaining harmony does not always work because a lot of people do the actions that would lead them to harmony since it is ideal. You should perform the right action, follow the guidelines, because they are right not for the goal of achieving harmony because if you do that you won’t achieve it.

Confucius’s belief was an individual’s self well-being usually depends on the well-being of others. 'Virtue does not stand alone. It is bound to have neighbors.” This quote explains how virtue can not be achieved on its own; there are many things we need to do inorder to acquire virtue. Like it was explained before virtue/being humane or a gentleman depends on our actions towards others, learning, self reflection and following The Way and the guidelines it comes with. This statement explains why Confucious addresses relationships towards others, or doing your best for another or benefiting others to also benefit yourself. 

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