Updated: Aug 29, 2021
"The Way of Confucius is but Devotion and Consideration."
—Analects of Confucius
(Original Text: 夫子之道，忠恕而已矣)
Devotion means to do your utmost, to be strict with yourself.
Consideration means to be empathetic, tolerant, and forgiving towards others.
We can apply this teaching to interpersonal relationships. We’ve probably all asked ourselves, “Why won’t the other person listen to me?”
Ugh what’s wrong with them?
If they don’t know what’s good for them, that’s their problem.
They better listen to me or else…
Have I done my utmost?
Have I set a good example? Do I walk my talk?
Have I built trust with them?
Have I given a lot in this relationship?
Am I actually trying to help them, or am I just imposing my own will onto them?
Have I done my audience analysis? Have I prepared my message and timing to make it easy for them to receive?
What in their background, childhood, and education made them like this?
Do they actually find my efforts helpful? Or annoying?
What do they need from me? In what way do they need it delivered?
My Example: Why do my parents always misunderstand me?
I remember a period in my past where I always felt misunderstood by my parents. Back then, I blamed them for jumping to conclusions and not making the effort to understand me. Now that I use devotion and consideration, I have much less conflict with them. Upon reflection, here's how I could have used devotion and consideration back then.
I was very extremely busy, and my parents told me to take better care of my health. I didn't, which means I violated their trust. Obviously then, they wouldn't trust my words. I also didn't contribute much to the family, so they felt like I didn't care about the family. I also didn't take initiative to communicate my situation, so of course they would end up guessing based on incomplete information.
Parents obviously care a lot about their children, so it’s natural for them to worry about me. If I were them and saw what I was doing and told what little I told them, I would probably be worried too. They need me to show them that I care about them and that I have good judgment.
Hypothetical Example: Why won’t my employees / followers follow rules and instructions properly?
Perhaps it’s because I or other leaders do not follow the rules and instructions properly. Perhaps I haven’t built trust with them, so they don’t care. Perhaps it’s because they are confused and need me to teach them. Perhaps my messaging doesn’t resonate with them.
Are my rules and instructions actually helpful for them? Or do they feel like it’s an unnecessary burden? What mentality and habits did they come here with? How easy is it for me to change, let alone other people? What they need from me is to affirm their goodness and encourage them to improve, not for me to focus on their bad points.
Relationships are key in our interdependent society. Confucius lived a very joyful life because he followed the two principles of devotion and consideration in his relationships. If we can do the same, we will have much more joyous relationships too!