The Ancient Chinese Understanding of Sincerity and Trustworthiness
(Clearwisdom.net) The virtues of sincerity and trustworthiness form a traditional moral standard that Chinese people have admired since long ago. It requires people to be truthful and sincere. It showcases the civility of a person. Only if a person is honest from within can they be good to their parents and friends, and only then can the entire society be harmonious. Therefore, sincerity and trustworthiness establishes the foundation for an individual, and is also the basis for a nation's survival. Only people with sincerity and trustworthiness can be wise and clear-headed enough to choose and follow what is good.
Lao Zi said in Dao De Jing, "Those who make promises casually are not trustworthy."
He meant to remind people that we need to be careful with what we promise and be even more earnest when handling important matters. Some people casually agree to other people's requests without thinking things through. Later, they actually aren't able to do it and even forget about it. How can these people be trustworthy? Therefore, when we make promises, we must give careful consideration and only do what we truly can. When we promise something to others, we should do what we say. A promise is priceless.
Confucius also repeatedly spoke about the issue of sincerity and trustworthiness. He said, "For those without trustworthiness, it is not known how they can survive."
Confucius said, "When we are with our friends, we must keep our word." In ancient China, the relationship between friends, between the emperor and his officials, between siblings, and between a husband and wife, are the five most fundamental relationships in human society. Being sincere and keeping one's word is a minimum condition for friendship. Those who disregard their promises are despised. In the Qing Dynasty, there was a person named Cai Lin. One of his friends entrusted him with a lot of money without providing any written proof of transaction. Soon after that, that friend died. Cai Lin invited his friend's son over and returned the money to his friend's son. His friend's son was surprised and said, "How can he entrust you with so much money, and not provide any proof? Besides, my father never mentioned this to me." Cai Lin smiled and said, "The proof is in our hearts, not on paper. Your father understands me, so he didn't tell you about it."
Confucius also said, "If people no longer trust their ruler, the ruler is bound to fail." People and nations need to be sincere and trustworthy. Otherwise, they will have no future. If a ruler doesn't care about being sincere and trustworthy, he or she will lose people's trust and support. In other words, without trustworthiness, a person or a nation would not be able to survive.
The ancient book, Zhouyi stated, "When we speak, we need to be sincere and truthful."
Our speech must be based on sincerity and trustworthiness. Here, sincerity and trustworthiness mean that our words must be based on fact and be followed with our actions. What we say must correspond to what we are thinking in our hearts. We can't be saying one thing while meaning another.
In regards to sincerity and trustworthiness, Guan Zi, another famous ancient scholar in China, said, "Those people who are not sincere about doing business should not do business; those who are not credible in their skills should not make a living off their skills; those who are not determined in working in the area of agriculture should not be farmers; and those who are not trustworthy should not be officials."
When doing business, ancient Chinese people always said, "We won't deceive our customers, whether they are kids or senior citizens." They tried to be sincere when doing business. What Guan Zi said is to remind people in all walks of life that we need to be sincere and strict with ourselves. We need to treat others with sincerity and we should not deceive others, since deceiving others is deceiving oneself. His last point is that officials need to be sincere and trustworthy. Otherwise, they are not qualified to serve the court.