In traditional Chinese Culture, being strict with oneself and tolerant of others is one of the principles a gentleman uses to discipline himself and treat others in society. This is a manifestation of a gentleman's virtue. Being strict with oneself is a noble character trait, encompassing both behaving righteously and improving oneself. Being tolerant of others means having a demeanor of generosity and forgiveness. This includes several components:


This means examining one's thoughts, words and actions according to moral standards. Confucius once said, "A gentleman examines himself while a villain is demanding of others." One important difference between a gentleman and villain is whether he can examine himself when issues arise. Meng Zi said, "If you cared for others but did not achieve acceptance, please ask yourself whether you were compassionate enough. If you persuaded others but did not succeed, please ask yourself whether you had enough wisdom. If you were polite to others, but others did not treat you the same way, please ask yourself if you were sincere enough. When things did not proceed as you expected, please examine yourself for reasons rather than blaming others." Zeng Shen said, "I examine myself many times each day. Did I do my best to help others? Was I honest with all others? Did I go review the materials teacher presented? Through introspection, one will be more rational and can truly govern himself. A gentleman should constantly examine himself and improve, to establish a noble character."

Being strict with oneself

This means establishing and restraining one's capabilities. Confucius said, "Restraining oneself and reviving Li [ethical standards] to achieve Ren [benevolence]." That is to say, only by abstaining from one's own desires, improper words and misconducts, as well as voluntarily obeying moral standards, can one achieve Ren. One should "not look at things inconsistent with Li, not listen to things inconsistent with Li, not speak things inconsistent with Li, and not do things inconsistent with Li." Confucius said that by obeying Li and being strict with oneself, everyone could be a gentleman and society would achieve Ren.

Meng Zi said, "I have always been establishing a noble character." Zeng Shen said, "A gentleman cannot forget his mission." All these refer to the great responsibility a gentleman has. One should be determined in his faith with a noble character. By insisting on righteousness, he will not be disturbed by surrounding incidents and external interference.

Being alert when one is alone

This means one should be strict with himself even when he is on his own. Through this, one will discipline his inner thoughts and prevent erroneous or selfish thoughts. In Zhong Yong, it is written, "A gentleman is alert when he is on his own." That is to say, "There are some hidden, subtle thoughts which already exist but have not yet developed. One could be aware of it himself although others have yet to find it out. One should abstain from his own desires even at the earliest stage to prevent them from growing. Be careful when speaking and be cautious when acting so that one can meet moral standards." Being alert when one is alone means having consistency between one's mind and actions. This openness is new realm of life. There are many ancient anecdotes like this.


On the issue of human relationships in society, Confucius emphasized generosity and forgiveness. He said, "One should act more like himself, and demand less from others." "Do not apply something you do not like to others." Zhu Xi said, "Doing one's best is loyalty, and considering others' situation as if one's own is forgiveness." That is to to say, be considerate and place yourself in others' shoes. A gentleman should be strict with himself while generous and forgiving with others. A gentleman should be trustworthy since his words are consistent with his actions. Confucius once said, "When you say something, make sure to keep your word. When you do something, make sure it is completed." Confucius also said, "A gentleman is cautious with his words, since he considers it shameful when he is unable to follow his words." When a gentleman saw someone better than himself, he would learn from that person. When a gentleman saw someone who was not good, he would examine himself to see if he had similar problems.

The purpose of a gentleman's study and improvement was to "realize righteousness to achieve the Tao," as said by Confucius. In Da Xue, this was summarized as "Cultivate oneself, harmonize the family, manage a nation, and bring peace to the world." A gentleman should purify his own mind and body, to virtuously achieve the Tao. Only by having high virtues can one be open-minded, kindhearted, and be able to fulfill his social responsibility to safeguard the truth.