Avoid Quoting Out Of Context
(Clearwisdom.net) Youzi, Zenzi and Ziyou were all students of Confucius. Once, Youzi asked Zenzi, "Have you ever asked teacher what should be done after losing a government position?" Zenzi replied, "I heard teacher say, 'After losing a government position, you should become poor fast, after dying you should become rotten quickly'."
Youzi said, "That is not what teacher said." Zenzi replied, "I indeed heard this from teacher." Youzi said again, "This is not the remark teacher made." Zenzi said, "I heard this remark together with Ziyou." Youzi then said, "Teacher possibly did say this, but teacher must have said these words aiming at a specific matter."
Zenzi told Ziyou about this conversation. Ziyou said, "Youzi speaks so much like teacher! When the teacher was living in the land of Song, he saw Huan Sima making a coffin out of stone for himself. Three years had passed but the coffin was not yet complete. Teacher then said, 'With sumptuous living like this, one would rather die and become rotten quickly.' So becoming rotten quickly after death was aimed at Huan Sima. Nangong Jingsu once lost the governmental position he held and had to leave the land of Lu. Upon returning to his homeland, he went to visit the monarch, taking along with him some treasures to offer as a bribe. The teacher then said, 'Bribing to secure an official position like this, he should become poor fast after losing the government position.' Thus, becoming poor fast after losing a government position was aimed at Jingsu."
Zenzi told Youzi about Ziyou's comment. Youzi said, "Sure, I already said that those were not the words of teacher." Zenzi asked, "How do you know?"
Youzi explained, "When teacher formulated the etiquette he stipulated the thickness of the coffin to be four inches and the thickness of the outer coffin five inches. From this you can tell teacher did not want a person to become rotten rapidly after death. When teacher once lost the government position of Sikou in the land of Lu, he planned to go to the land of Chu and he let Zixia go there to indicate his intention first followed by sending Ranyou there to contact and communicate. From this you know that teacher did not want to become poor quickly after losing a governmental position."
We can see from this story that during a conversation many words have their own pertinence. They have close correlation with the time, location, environment, and the object pertinent to that conversation. As the audience, we should not quote out of context and publicize all over, and thereby avoid misunderstandings.