Confucius said, “Failing to cultivate virtue. Studying but not making sense of what I study. Not practicing what I preach. Not correcting my errors. These things keep me up at night.”


Confucius said, “From those who could only bring me some dried meat and upwards, I’ve never turned away anyone who came to me for instruction.”


Confucius said, “I won’t give anyone a boost if they’re not at least struggling to make sense of an idea and get it into words. If I give someone one corner of a lesson and they can’t come back with the other three, I’m done teaching them.”


Confucius said to Yan Hui, “Acting when called upon to act and retiring when not needed. Only you and I are like this.”

Zilu asked, “If you were leading an army, who would you take as a lieutenant?”

Confucius replied, “Not the kind of person who likes to wrestle tigers or rush across a river on foot. Not someone who rushes headlong toward death without a second thought. I’d like someone who approaches the work with caution, someone who plans, and someone who sees the thing through to completion.”


Confucius said, “If wealth were guaranteed and worth going after, I’d go after it, even if it meant just holding a whip. Since it’s not, though, I’ll do something I love.”


When Confucius was in Qi, he heard the Shao music. For three months afterward, he didn’t even notice the taste of meat.


Ran Qiu wondered, “Does Confucius support the ruler of Wei?”

Zigong said, “Okay, I’ll go and ask.”

He went to Confucius’ room and asked, “What kind of men were Bo Yi and Shu Qi?”

Confucius replied, “They were worthies of ancient times.”

Zigong followed up, “Didn’t anyone resent them?”

Confucius replied, “They pursued humaneness and they got it. What resentment would that stir up?”

Zigong left the room and said, “No, Confucius doesn’t support the ruler of Wei.”


The Governor of She asked Zilu about Confucius, but Zilu didn’t answer him.

When Confucius heard about this, he said, “Why didn’t you just tell him, ‘He’s the sort of man who goes after learning so eagerly that he forgets to eat, and in his joy forgets his worries and doesn’t notice old age creeping up on him?’”


Confucius said, “When I do something with two other people, they’re my teachers. I notice their good points and try to follow suit. I notice their bad points and try to correct them in myself.”


Confucius said, “My young friends, do you think I hide anything from you? I don’t hide anything from you. I don’t do anything that I don’t put right out there in front of you. That’s just how I am.”


Confucius said, “I’ve never met a sage, but I’d be satisfied to meet a noble person. I’ve never met someone who was truly good, but I’d be satisfied to meet someone who was steadfast.

“I see a lot of people who have nothing pretending to be something, who are empty while pretending to have substance, pretending to have comfort in the midst of their difficulties. Just to be steadfast is hard enough.”


Confucius said, “There may be some people who innovate without prior knowledge, but I’m not like that. I listen closely and follow what’s good. I observe closely and remember what’s good. This is the second best kind of knowledge.”


It was hard to have a worthwhile conversation with people from Huxiang, so when a young man from that village came to Confucius, his students weren’t sure about it.

Confucius said, “Just because I accepted him when he came to me doesn’t mean I approve of everything he does after he leaves. Don’t be so strict. When someone purifies himself to approach, accept that purity. That doesn’t mean you have to approve of everything they did before or after.”


The Minister of Justice in Chen asked Confucius, “Did the Duke of Zhou know the rules of ritual?”

Confucius replied, “He did.”

After Confucius left, the minister bowed to his prince, Wuma Qi, and told him, “I have heard that a noble person is not biased, but maybe some are.

“The Duke of Zhou married a woman with the same clan, and justified it by saying that she came from ‘the Elder Family of Wu.’ If the Duke of Zhou knew the rules of ritual, then who doesn’t know them?”

Later, Wuma Qi told this to Confucius.

Confucius replied, “I’m a lucky man! When I make a mistake, other people always find out.”


When Confucius was singing with someone else, and he found that they sang well, he would ask them start over again so he could sing the harmony.


Confucius became very sick and Zilu asked permission to offer a prayer for him.

Confucius asked, “Is there a precedent for that?”

Zilu replied, “Yes. There is a passage in the Eulogies, ‘We pray to the spirits above and the spirits below for you.’”

Confucius replied, “Then I have already been praying for a long time.”