The philosopher Mencius told people in 300 BC that one prospers during calamities and hardship and that one perishes when living at ease and comfort. However, in modern days, people tend to be led by inertia and laziness. People try to seek pleasure and escape from suffering, and thus they live a life in vain.
Mencius said that when Heaven is about to confer great responsibilities to a man, the individual must learn about suffering and physical hardship, be exposed to hunger and poverty, and experience disorder in his life. All these methods stimulate the mind, harden the nature, and develop his great potential.
Mencius believes that humans make mistakes but can correct themselves based on past experience. When they are distressed and perplexed, they will rise and achieve great accomplishments.
When men have seen, heard about, and experienced hardship, they can understand and rise to new heights. Hardship and calamity help one develop great skills and abilities, while ease and comfort have the opposite effect.
In modern China, because of the improvement of material benefits, many people have not experienced hardship, especially those who grew up under the one-child policy. These children have gradually developed selfishness and a domineering character.
In many people’s minds, pursuing pleasure and happiness is the primary aim of human life. They want to reap without sowing and pursue overnight success and extreme luxury. Many young people are not willing to work hard and complain a lot about their lot in life. They feel resentful whenever they encounter a little difficulty in life, refuse to excel in the workplace, and feel that they have been taken advantage of by others.
Hardship is not a bad thing, as one can develop a strong will, and it can strengthen one’s mind and help one succeed. In fact, most things that are good for people are less comfortable. For instance, morning exercises and other sports are tiring, but they are good for one’s health.
Strict supervisors may not be pleasing but can help subordinates develop efficiency. Good medicine tastes bitter because it results in a cure, and unpalatable advice helps people see their faults and do things better.
People have karma, which leads to hardship. Enduring the hardship can eliminate karma. If a person has never endured hardship but only enjoys happiness, the outcome will probably be the opposite.
「Eliminating the calamity earlier, curing the illness earlier, and enduring the hardship earlier」 is a good thing.
Ancient Chinese Government Officials From Humble Backgrounds
According to Mencius, in the chapter of Gaozi II, Mencius spoke of Emperor Shun, one of the ancient Five Emperors. He was discovered while working on a farm.
Fu Yue was promoted from a laborer skilled in building defensive walls to the position of a government minister in the Shang Dynasty.
Jiao Ge was a fish and salt trader before he became a Grand Counselor during the Shang Dynasty under King Zhou.
Guan Yiwu, also called Guan Zhong, became a famous prime minister under Duke Huan of Qi. He became a prime minister after he was released from prison. He was known for his reforms and skillful diplomacy.
In the Spring and Autumn Period, Sunshu Ao became the well-known prime minister of the Hegemony of Chu. He was a hermit before he was selected to serve the country.
Baili Xi was a slave who later became a very important minister under Duke Mu of Qin.