Confucius was an ancient and wise Chinese philosopher (born in 551 BC) whose teachings heavily influenced and still continue to influence the Chinese society (and even societies all around the world). In many ways, Confucius was to the Chinese, what the likes of Socrates and Aristotle were to the western world.
Some of the virtues that Confucius preached were politeness, compassion, good manners, loyalty, respect, integrity, altruism, humaneness, and social harmony. He also strongly believed in the Golden rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
The philosophy of Confucius, known as Confucianism is a set of ethical and moral codes for living a peaceful, harmonious and productive life. To this day, Confucianism is followed as a way of life by many in China. Some even follow it as a religion.
There is a lot we can learn from the wise teachings of Confucius and in this article we are going to look at what Confucius thought are the qualities of a superior man.
Throughout his teachings, Confucius seems to point out the nature and qualities of a superior man/woman. He uses the Chinese term ‘Junzi’ to refer to a superior man which basically translates to a ‘wise, courteous and honourable person. This article is a collection of 18 such qualities that according to Confucius makes a superior man.
It is to be noted that these are not in any way gender specific. The term ‘Man’ here is used for simplicity and to denote both genders.
So according to Confucius, a superior man is…
“The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior man does not waste his energy in self praise, gossip or loose talk. What others think of him means less to him. Instead he focuses his attention on working and getting things done.
“The nobler sort of man emphasizes the good qualities in others, and does not accentuate the bad. The inferior does.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior man tries to see the good in others instead of focusing on the bad. He makes people around him feel empowered by helping them see the good in them. An inferior man on the other hand is keen on pinpointing the bad qualities in others and is a negative influence to be around.
“The noble-minded are calm and steady. Little people are forever fussing and fretting.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior person understands themselves and their mind through years of self reflection and contemplation. Hence they have control over their mind. They are not unduly swayed by the thoughts arising in their mind. Instead, they know how to let these thoughts go without powering these thoughts with their attention. And this is what makes them calm and steady.
“A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace.” - Confucius
Inference: In conscious observation, the superior man finds beauty even in the most ordinary things. And hence, he is not in constant pursuit of novel experiences as an inferior man does.
“Knowledge is merely brilliance in organization of ideas and not wisdom. The truly wise person goes beyond knowledge.” - Confucius
Inference: The ordinary man accumulates knowledge and is concerned with facts and information. But a superior man is keener on observing and understanding things from a deeper perspective. They do not become a slave to their knowledge; instead they use their knowledge as a tool for deeper understanding.
“He Who Knows And Knows That He Knows Is A Wise Man - Follow Him; He Who Knows Not And Knows Not That He Knows Not Is A Fool - Shun Him” - Confucius
Inference: A foolish person is someone who thinks that he knows everything even though that is not the case. A wise man on the other hand knows what he knows and hence he also knows what he does not know. This is why a wise person keeps an open mind and is always open to learning.
“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior man tends to look within and seeks fulfilment within himself. He knows that everything he wants is available right within him and hence he does not try to seek that in others.
“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.” - Confucius
Inference: All that an inferior man is concerned about is survival. He does not care for what is right or wrong as long as he can make money to survive. A superior man on the other hand has integrity. His stands for what he believes in and does not compromise on his core values.
“He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.” - Confucius
Inference: A person who has conquered himself is no longer an unconscious slave to his mind and body. He is not lost in his egoic identity or his thoughts. His subconscious beliefs do not control him. Instead, he is conscious and awakened. He controls his mind and uses his mind as a tool to accomplish his highest goals and ideals.
“A superior man in dealing with the world is not for anything or against anything. He follows righteousness as the standard.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior man does not join one team or the other. He is free from the herd mentality. He does not take sides and instead chooses to remain neutral. The only thing he sides with is what feels right in accordance with his morals and values.
“When a person should be spoken with, and you don't speak with them, you lose them. When a person shouldn't be spoken with and you speak to them, you waste your breath. The wise do not lose people, nor do they waste their breath.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior man does not waste his time and energy arguing with or teaching people who do not have the capacity to understand what he has to say. Instead, they like to spend their time wisely by associating only with those who match their level of consciousness.
“The superior man has a dignified ease without pride. The mean man has pride without a dignified ease.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior man is not controlled by his ego or egoic identity. Therefore they are free from pride and yet they carry themselves in a manner that demands respect. The ordinary person on the other hand is completely one with his ego and hence is controlled by lower emotions like pride, anger, hate and jealousy.
“As the water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, so a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior person knows how to adapt themselves to circumstances. They know when to show resistance and when to go with the flow. They do not allow the circumstances to put them down; instead they use the circumstances to grow stronger.
“The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions.” - Confucius
Inference: A wise person does not waste their time in talking or boasting about things they are going to do. Instead they use their time in getting things done.
“The noble-minded are all-encompassing, not stuck in doctrines. Little people are stuck in doctrines.” - Confucius
Inference: The superior person is not a slave to his beliefs and ideologies. They use their beliefs and ideas when required but do not let themselves be used by their beliefs and ideas. They do not subscribe to doctrines and have a broad and open mind. They have a mind that is open to ideas and information, but not a slave to either.
“Here are four of the characteristics of a superior man:— in his conduct of himself, he is humble; in serving his superiors, he is respectful; in nourishing the people, he is kind; in ordering the people, he is just.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior man is humble, they know their self worth and value themselves but do not put themselves over others.
“The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.” - Confucius
Inference: One of the main qualities that differentiate a superior man from others is integrity. A superior man has high moral standards and will never compromise his integrity for anything.
“The nobler type of man is broad-minded and not prejudiced. The inferior man is prejudiced and not broad-minded.” - Confucius
Inference: A superior person has an open mind and is always open to learning. He is not controlled by his egoic identity and hence is free from all kinds of prejudices. An inferior man on the other hand is egoic and prejudiced.
Mani is the founder of Outofstress.com, a website dedicated to helping people lead stress free lives.