Stories of Tolerance (Part 1)

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An old Chinese saying states, “Ancient gentlemen are strict with themselves down to the last detail, while treating others with leniency and giving them latitude.” This means that they are very demanding of themselves so that they can constantly improve. On the other hand, they treat others with tolerance, which allows others to do good. Tolerance is a type of wisdom that is found while being steadfast to righteousness. It is consideration and responsibility towards others, which requires one to be broadminded and kind.

Zi Gong once asked his teacher Confucius, “Is there a single word that I can follow as a guiding principle for my life?” Confucius replied, “Forgiveness is probably that word.” The ancient people focused on self-cultivation, constantly inspecting themselves while being tolerant and forgiving. This increased their own virtue and influenced others at the same time.

Below are some stories from ancient times.

Song Jiu Repays Evil with Good

In the Warring States Period (722 – 481 BC), Song Jiu was a county governor in the State of Liang. His county was adjacent to the State of Chu. A post was set up on either side of the border. Those who worked at the posts on either side farmed melons. The Liang people were industrious, and they frequently irrigated their land, so their melons grew very well. The Chu people were lazy. They hardly ever watered the land, and their melons of course did not grow well.

Out of jealousy, the Chu people stomped on and broke the vines on the Liang side late one night. The Liang people reported the damage to Governor Song and sought revenge. Song Jiu shook his head and said, “We should not do that. Making an enemy is a path to calamity. It would be too narrow-minded if we played tit for tat. I will give you a solution. We will send our people to the other side to secretly water their land every night, but we will not tell them.”

In the morning, the Chu people saw that their crop had already been irrigated. With help from the Liang people, the melon vines within the Chu border grew better day by day. The Chu people thought it strange at first. They secretly investigated and found out the reason. They were very moved and reported it to their central government. The King of Chu felt ashamed and subsequently apologized to the Liang people with generous gifts and asked them to pass along a message of friendship between the two states. Afterwards, the King of Chu praised the King of Liang as someone trustworthy and righteous. Over time, the two states developed a long-lasting friendship, which started from the melon vine incident and how Song Jiu repaid an act of doing harm with an act of kindness.

「其待人也輕以約」──寬容的故事(一)

古語云:「古之君子,其責己也重以周,其待人也輕以約。」指古之君子對自己要求嚴格而全面,這樣就能及時改過,不斷向上;對別人寬容而平易,使別人樂於為善。寬容是一種智慧,是道義堅守中的包容,是對他人的關愛和負責,它需要有寬廣的胸襟和與人為善的心態。孔子的學生子貢曾問孔子:「有沒有一個字,可以作為終生奉行的原則呢?」孔子說:「那大概就是‘恕’吧。」「恕」,就是寬容的意思。古人注重修身,時時觀照、省察自己,並且能用寬容的心,涵容他人過失,不僅自己的德業可以增長,也能夠感化、善化他人。以下為古籍中記載的幾個故事。

宋就以德報怨

戰國時期,梁國有一位叫宋就的大夫,曾經做過一個邊境縣的縣令。這個縣和楚國相鄰界,梁、楚兩國都設有邊亭,兩國邊亭的人員各自種了一塊瓜田。梁人十分勤勞,多次給瓜田澆水灌溉,他們種的瓜長勢很好。而楚人懶惰,給瓜田澆水灌溉的次數少,他們種的瓜長勢不好。

楚人出於妒嫉,在深夜去踐踏和扯斷梁人的瓜藤。梁人發現後,去請示縣令宋就,認為要報復,準備去踐踏楚人瓜藤,宋就聽後搖搖頭說:「怎麼可以這樣做呢?與人結怨,是招禍的門徑。人家對我們不好,我們也對人家不好,這多麼狹隘呢!我告訴你們一個辦法,每晚派人暗中為楚人澆灌他們的瓜田,不要讓他們知道。」

楚人早晨到瓜田一看,發現已經澆灌過了。就這樣,在梁人的幫助下,楚亭的瓜田長勢一天比一天好起來。楚人感到奇怪,便暗中察訪,知道原來是梁人幹的,於是大受震撼,便把這件事報告給楚國朝廷。楚王知道這件事後,感到很慚愧,便派人帶著豐厚的禮品向梁國邊亭人員表示歉意,並請求與梁王結交。楚王后來多次稱讚梁王講信義。所以說,梁楚兩國的友好關係,是從宋就妥善處理邊亭瓜田事件開始的。古語說的「轉敗而為功,因禍而為福」、老子說的「報怨以德」,就是說的這類事情呀。(《新序》)。

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