Correcting One's Mistakes With Courage and Improving Oneself Without Delay
(Clearwisdom.net) "To err is human," is an ancient Chinese proverb. It implies that even a gentleman is bound to make mistakes. In contrast to an ordinary person, a wise person is more apt to look inward, correct his mistakes, and improve himself. That is why he is great and wise.
Past ancient sages advised that we should "accept advice gladly." Emperor Tang Taizong (January 23, 599 - July 10, 649) was the Tang Dynasty's second emperor. His given name was Li Shimin, which means "serving the country and bringing peace to the people." Of all the emperors from ancient Chinese history, he was remembered as the best at accepting advice, and he thereby set a good example for future emperors. He encouraged his officials to offer advice and forgave those who criticized him for no reason. When officials offered their opinions or pointed out his mistakes, he sincerely replied, "What you said is reasonable. It was I who was not thinking carefully." When people criticized Emperor Tang Taizong for no reason, some officials suggested that he punish them. Tang Taizong replied, "I cannot do that. If I punish them, no one would ever dare to point out my mistakes." Because the Tang Dynasty had a wise emperor and many virtuous officials, the government was not corrupt, the country was stable, and the people lived peaceful lives. It was a prosperous era for the Dynasty.
In regard to offering or accepting suggestions, one should do it without fear, and place the good of the people above all else. Qi Xuanwang (about 350-301 B.C., given name Tian Bijiang) was the king of Qi (one of the Seven Warring States). He ordered that the palace be rebuilt. After three years the work was still not completed, but not one official offered advice to the king. A gentleman named Chun Ju was concerned that the construction delay could drain the country's resources. He risked his life to offer advice to Qi Xuanwang and said, "If the king of a nation does not consider the people's capacity to forbear, is the king virtuous?" Qi Xuanwang replied, "No, the king is not virtuous." Chun Ju asked another question, "You are now rebuilding a large palace on more than one hundred acres of land, with three hundred gates. A country as big as Qi cannot even complete the remodeling of a palace in three years, and yet no official dares to offer any advice. Does your highness truly have officials?" Qi Xuanwang hesitated for a moment and replied, "No, I don't." Chun Ju asked for permission to leave, then turned around and left. Qi Xuanwang suddenly understood, so he got up quickly and called out, "Mr. Chun, please come back! Why did you take so long to advise me? I will issue an order to immediately stop construction." He then told his officials, "Please record this in the historical record of the state that I wanted to remodel the palace and that I was not being virtuous. It was Mr. Chun who stopped me."
In order to correct one's mistakes and improve, one must also possess a broad and open mind. During the era of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1661-1722 A.D.), Zhang Ying from Tong Cheng City was an official at the Wenhua Palace and Secretary of the Ministry of Rites and Education. Zhang Ying's neighbor was the prominent Ye family. Mr. Ye worked as an assistant in the imperial palace. On one occasion, the two families had a dispute over the courtyard wall. Zhang Ying's wife immediately sent a letter to her husband. After reading the letter, Zhang Ying became worried. He sent a letter back to his wife saying, "You wrote me a letter from thousands of miles away about a piece of wall. It would not hurt to back off three meters. The Great Wall of China is still standing, but Emperor Qin is no longer around." Therefore, Ms. Zhang ordered the workers to back up three meters to build the wall. The Ye family was very touched by this gesture and ordered their servants to back up their wall three meters, too. The two families became good neighbors.
In fact, when a person is capable of correcting his mistakes and improving himself, he is truly in charge of his own life. And to be able to accomplish that, one should not fret over one's mistakes. This is worse than covering them up. One should remember, follow, and carry out the principles of improving oneself at all times and under all circumstances. For those who have committed serious mistakes, the implication is far more significant. There is an ancient saying: "No matter how big an accomplishment one has achieved, it does not rival an ounce of self-boasting. No matter how serious the crime one has committed, it cannot be compared to a tinge of remorse." Once a person has a sense of shame and remorse, it is a sign of wisdom. On the contrary, if a person continues to be conceited, is unable to step out of "self" and "selfishness," and continues to look for justifications for his behavior, then he is bound to be friendless and will reap what he sowed.
Zhou Liwang (? - 828 B.C., personal name Ji Hu) was the tenth Emperor of Western Zhou and reigned for almost sixteen years. He was a despotic and domineering ruler and was quite proud of his ability to "forestall criticism." Although people had many complaints, Zhou Liwang would not let them speak up and monitored those who criticized him. As soon as someone was heard criticizing him, whether an official or an ordinary citizen, he was sentenced to death. People did not dare to talk to each other on the street or, even less, have a discussion. Zhou Liwang was more concerned about "preventing people from criticizing than preventing the river from flooding." Three years later, the earth began to obstruct the flow of the river and caused it to flood. The people could no longer tolerate it. They gathered around the palace and wanted to kill Zhou Liwang. The soldiers were not willing to protect him, either. Zhou Liwang was deserted by his allies and family and was exiled to Zhi.
History is like a mirror, and the end result depends on one's ability to accept criticism. We should understand the principle of "To err is human, but people respect those who are able to admit fault and are willing to change." We should not be afraid of making mistakes. The key is knowing what do to when we make mistakes. Some people are afraid of hearing unpleasant words. Once they hear something that hits a nerve, they become angry, and they even want to bully others and retaliate. This kind of behavior will not only hurt others but will eventually hurt themselves. We should keep a proper attitude and do what is right, while continuously upgrading our level of thinking. Then there is nothing that can stop us from progressing forward.