The Ancients' Thoughts on Amending Mistakes
(Clearwisdom.net) The ancient people thought that it was very important to amend one's mistakes--it was a way to cultivate virtue. It was also an important issue for introspection and cultivation. The ancients believed that even a saint could make mistakes. In the "Classics" it states that no man is infallible, and to be able to correct one's errors is the noblest of virtues.
To make a mistake and fail to correct it, however, is to make another mistake. Confucius said, "If you know that you made a mistake and you don't correct it, that's truly a mistake." It is admirable when one can actively improve one's behavior. One should act like Zi Lu, one of Confucius' well-known disciples, "Being joyful whenever he learned of his mistakes." Only when one is anxious to correct one's mistakes can one continually improve oneself and becomes a person of great virtue.
In The Analects of Zi Chang 19, Zi Chang, one of Confucius' disciples, said, "The mistakes of a gentleman are displayed like the eclipses of the sun and the moon: when a gentleman makes a mistake, everyone sees it; and when he corrects it, everyone admires it." Mistakes are unavoidable, particularly the mistakes of a gentleman. If he can amend himself, others will still respect him. If he fails to do that or if he makes an effort to conceal them, then he not only loses his self-respect but also meets with disdain from others.
In the Book of Change, it states that one should change for the better and amend one's mistakes.
It's impossible for anyone not to make a mistake, but the important thing is to correct it in time. Taizhong, the famous emperor of the Tang Dynasty, was most well-known for his ability to take different suggestions and correct his mistakes in time. When he recalled the days of Wei Zheng, his most trusted adviser, he said, "If you take the copper as a mirror, it'll help you to adjust your attire; if you take history as a mirror, you'll know the rise and fall of the dynasties; if you take a human being as a mirror, you'll learn loss and gain." To "take a human being as a mirror" means to take the words and behavior of other people as references to find out whether what we do is right or wrong. You will give up your own idea if others have better ideas; you'll acknowledge and correct your mistakes if you see others behave properly; you'll be cautious and alarmed if others make a mistake, so you will not make the same mistake.
In the High Official in Ancient China, it states that one should correct one's mistakes without any reservations.
Mencius told this story: "There was a man who stole a chicken every day from his neighbor. Someone told him that it was not a gentleman's behavior. The man said, 'I need time to correct this behavior. First I'll steal only one chicken a month, instead of one a day, and by next year, I won't steal any more.'" The man knew he was wrong. Why could he not correct his mistake immediately and have to wait until next year? Once you know your mistakes, you should take corrective measures diligently and not lag behind.
Lu Jiuyuan, a thinker from the South Song Dynasty, said, "When someone points out your mistakes, you need to correct them immediately; when you know your mistakes, you should not try to conceal them; when you correct your mistakes, you should have no fear."
Mencius praised Zi Lu once and said, "Whenever someone points out that Zi Lu had made a mistake, Zi Lu is very glad about it." Based on what Mencius said, Lu Jiuyuan elaborated on it and said, "First, you should not be afraid when others point out your mistakes; second, after you learn of your mistakes, you should not try to fool others and yourself; finally, you should persevere in correcting your mistakes." "Have no fear." Those words are very important. After you have made a mistake, don't be afraid of the criticism, don't be afraid of the embarrassment, and furthermore, don't be afraid of the difficulties during the course of correction. When you can follow those three steps, your moral standard will continually elevate.
Yan Yuan, a thinker and educator of the Qing Dynasty, advocated learning everything and applying it to daily life. He said, "To cultivate your character means to correct your mistakes and change for the better." He emphasized that one should apply strict standards for oneself: Whenever possible, one should change for the better, and whenever one makes a mistake, one should correct it immediately. Only by doing that can one truly rectify one's thoughts, cultivate one's character, harmonize one's family, manage one's country, and bring peace to the entire world.