Bryan Dijkhuizen

5 Life Lessons from Confucius to Be Calmer

Today’s world is stressed.

It’s almost more difficult to keep your calm than don’t. How can we navigate this journey toward peace effectively?

Confucius, a Chinese philosopher whose teachings continue to resonate in the modern world, can help.

This article dives into six brilliant quotes by Confucius that illuminate the path toward inner peace, harmonious relationships, and societal harmony.

1. Always Try to Respect Others — Even When It’s Tough

Respect, as perceived by Confucius, goes beyond mere politeness or deference.

“Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?”

It is an integral component of human interactions, relationships, and societal structures. It underlines our ability to appreciate the value of others and recognize their rights, feelings, and needs.

Essentially, respect represents our capacity for empathy and understanding, elements that are crucial in maintaining peace and harmony.

In the absence of respect, conflicts, misunderstanding, and discord become more likely, reducing societal interactions to raw, animalistic competition or aggression — hence the comparison to “beasts”.

In other words, respect is not just a virtue but also a necessary condition for peaceful coexistence.

2. To Achieve Greatness, Look At Yourself and Improve

The journey towards universal peace, as per his philosophy, commences at the individual level.

Each individual must endeavor to cultivate their personal life, shape their moral compass, and align their heart with principles of fairness, kindness, and righteousness.

This internal peace in an individual then percolates into the familial unit, creating harmonious familial relationships.

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Subsequently, balanced and peaceful families collectively influence the societal fabric of the nation. They provide the building blocks of a just and orderly nation, thereby creating peace at a national level.

3. Forget About the Past, Live in the Present, and Focus on the Future

Confucius communicates the concept of forgiveness and the power it has in cultivating peace within ourselves.

According to him, the act of being wronged or harmed by another person is inevitable in our lives; however, it becomes problematic when we choose to hold onto these experiences, thus not allowing ourselves to heal or move forward.

“To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”

Consider a practical example: say you had a falling out with a close friend due to a misunderstanding.

They apologized and genuinely tried to make amends, but you found it hard to let go of the hurt. As time goes on, even though the incident is in the past, you’re still harboring negative feelings towards them.

The incident itself may have been a momentary event, but by choosing to remember it continuously, you’re allowing it to occupy a significant place in your present.

This leads to ongoing resentment, stress, and lack of peace.

In contrast, if you decided to accept their apology and genuinely forgave them, you would likely find a certain peace in letting go of the bitterness. It does not erase the incident, but it allows you to move forward without being weighed down by past hurts.

The ‘wrong’ in itself become ‘nothing’ in your present life because you don’t let it define your relationship with the person or your feelings towards them.

Therefore, what Confucius is advocating here is the power of forgiveness and letting go for the sake of our own peace of mind.

He suggests that we shouldn’t allow the wrongs done to us to have a lasting negative impact on our lives. It’s not the act of being wronged that causes continuous pain, but our decision to remember it and let it influence our present and future.

4. Try to Remain at Peace Under All Circumstances

“When anger rises, think of the consequences.”

Imagine this: You’re in the heat of an argument and your temper is flaring.

It’s at times like these that Confucius’s wisdom comes into play. He’s saying, “Hey, take a break. Think it through.”

In other words, don’t let anger pilot your actions, because those actions have consequences.

This can be as simple as a harsh word that fractures a friendship, or an impulsive decision that leads to long-term damage.

The point?

Always keep the endgame in sight, even when you’re seeing red. Slow down, consider the fallout, and steer yourself towards a response that promotes peace, not discord.

5. It’s Important Always to Be Honest, with Yourself and Others

A person of true character, often referred to as a “gentleman” in Confucian texts, values consistency in their promises and their actions.

For example, if a leader promises to create a more peaceful environment within a community but incites conflict through their actions, this discrepancy between words and deeds undermines their credibility and trustworthiness.

It leads to social unrest and conflict, the very opposite of the promised peace.

“A gentleman would be ashamed should his deeds not match his words.”

On the other hand, a leader who promises peace and acts accordingly, consciously making decisions that foster harmony and understanding, is living in alignment with their words.

This integrity not only enhances their respect in the community but also contributes to a peaceful and stable environment.

So, Confucius is essentially advocating for the practice of integrity: ensuring that our actions mirror our words. This is fundamental to fostering trust, peace, and harmony in all our relationships and interactions.

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