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If it's a Small Stick, Stay. If it's a Big stick, Run.

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

A young boy named Zeng Zi (曾子) heard Confucius talk about the importance of filial piety, and how if our parents scold us, we ought to listen respectfully. Further, if our parents get angry and even hit us, we should accept it calmly.

Later at home, the boy made a big mistake that resulted in his father getting very angry. The father scolded him and even started hitting him*.

(*Context: In ancient China, back in the time of Confucius, it was acceptable and normal for parents to use hitting as a way of discipling children. They usually did it as a last resort and out of good intentions for their children, wanting them to learn an important lesson and remember it.)

While being hit, the boy thought about Confucius's words, and he remained there. The dad was not careful and accidentally hit his son on the head, which knocked him unconscious.

Later, when Confucius heard about this, he said the boy was not filial. His students were confused. A student asked,

"Didn't you say we should accept scolding and even beating from parents calmly?"

Confucius explained,

"If a child gets hurt, who is most upset? Of course it's the parents. If you see your parent angry and therefore not thinking clearly, you need to be careful. If it's a small stick, then you can accept the discipline calmly. If it's a big stick, run."


From this story, we see the importance of understanding the principle behind rules so that you don't blindly follow them inappropriately.


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