The Superior Man and the Inferior Man
(Clearwisdom.net) "The Superior Man" is a term that was used a long time ago. Confucius applied very meaningful definitions to the term, and clearly and succinctly explained its meaning. According to Confucius' model, the superior man is one with ideal characteristics who epitomizes excellence.
Confucius said, "The superior man works hard for the Tao instead of working for a living. Those who farm may suffer from hunger, but for those who seek the Tao, their food and income are supplied by what they've learned. As for the superior man, he is more concerned that the great Tao might not be spread than for his own well being."
"The superior man doesn't seek to satisfy his appetites or pursue a comfortable life. Instead, he works industriously, chooses his words carefully, and looks for the virtuous and talented to point out his mistakes. Those who know him say he is diligent in the pursuit of knowledge."
"The superior man considers morality fundamental, follows the proper etiquette in his practice of it, uses humble words to express it, and devotes all his mental and physical energies to attain it. This is a superior man."
"The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability. He isn't concerned about being unrecognized." "The superior man wouldn't recommend or promote a person based only on his words, nor would he ignore a man's words because of his behavior."
Confucius said, "When there is a preponderance of native substance over acquired refinement, the result will be churlishness. When there is a preponderance of acquired refinement over native substance, the result will be pedantry. Only a well-balanced admixture of these two will result in gentle manliness."
"There are three things which the superior man guards against. In youth, when the physical powers are not yet settled, he guards against lust. When he is strong and the physical powers are full of vigor, he guards against quarrelsomeness. When he is old, and the animal powers are decayed, he guards against covetousness"
"The superior man stands in awe of three things: He stands in awe of the ordinances of Heaven. He stands in awe of great men. He stands in awe of the words of the sages. The inferior man doesn't know the ordinances of Heaven, and consequently he doesn't revere them. He is disrespectful of great men, and he makes sport of the words of the sages."
"The Superior man has nine subjects he thoughtfully considers. With regard to the use of his eyes, he is anxious to see clearly. As to the use of his ears, he is anxious to hear distinctly. In regard to his countenance, he is anxious that it should be benign. Concerning his speech, he is anxious that it should be sincere. As to the way he conducts business, he is anxious that it should be done reverently and carefully. In regard to his doubts, he is anxious to seek wisdom from others. When he is angry, he considers the difficulties his anger may involve him in. When he sees the potential to profit, he thinks of righteousness."
Tzu-kung asked about the characteristics of the superior man. Confucius said, "The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions." Tzu-kung asked, "Has the superior man his hatreds also?"
Confucius said, "He has his hatreds. He hates those who proclaim the evil of others. He hates the man who, from his lowly station, slanders his superiors. He hates those who merely have valor, but fail to observe propriety. He hates those who are forward and determined, yet have limited understanding."
Tzu-lu asked about the characteristics of the superior man. Confucius said, "He cultivates himself by comforting others." Tzu-lu admired bravery, and asked Confucius, "Does the superior man appreciate bravery?"
Confucius said, "The superior man holds righteousness first. If the superior man is brave without righteousness, he will make trouble. If the inferior man is brave without righteousness, he will commit robbery."
Ssu-ma Niu also asked about the characteristics of the superior man. Confucius said, "The superior man has neither anxiety nor fear." "When internal examination reveals nothing wrong, what is there to be anxious about, what is there to fear?"
While Confucius visited Chen and Tsai Counties, there was no food. His followers were all sick with hunger. Tzu-lu angrily asked, "Would a superior man be in such a poor condition?"
Confucius said, "A superior man cannot be changed by poverty. An inferior man will do anything when he's poor."
Conceptually contrasting the superior man to "the inferior man," Confucius often put these two models together to explain his teachings. He compared them to easily show people the contents of his ideal personalities.
Confucius said, "A superior man is contented and composed. An inferior man is pathetic." "The superior man is aware of righteousness, the inferior man is aware of advantage." "The superior man cares about virtue; the inferior man cares about material things." "The progress of the superior man is upwards; the progress of the inferior man is downwards."
Confucius also said, "The superior man treats people fairly, without selfishness. The inferior man treats others selfishly." "The superior man treats others generously without currying favor. The inferior man curries favor from others instead of treating them generously." "The superior man will promote the development of other people's advantages, and won't promote the development of their disadvantages. The inferior man is right opposite."
Confucius said, "The superior man is easy to serve, but difficult to please, for he can only be pleased by what is right, and he uses men according to their individual abilities. The Inferior man is difficult to serve, but easy to please, for you can please him without necessarily being right, and when he comes to using men, he demands perfection."
(From the "Analects of Confucius")