Confucius said, “Meng Zifan isn’t the boastful kind. Once, when his army was forced to retreat, he stayed behind to guard the rear. As they were about to enter the city gates, though, he spurred his horses ahead, saying, ‘It wasn’t my bravery that kept me behind to guard the rear. It’s just that my horses wouldn’t move.’”
Confucius said, “Extravagance leads to a lack of humility. Frugality leads to shabbiness. Better to be shabby than to lack humility.”
In his own neighborhood, Confucius was agreeable and modest, seeming to be at a loss for words. When he was in the ancestral temples or at court, however, he was eloquent, though always cautious.
When passing through the door of his ruler, he would draw himself in, as if the gate wasn’t large enough to accommodate him. He wouldn’t stand in the middle of the gate or step on the threshold. When he passed by the throne, his expression became serious, his steps, short and deliberate. His voice dropped to a whisper, as if he could barely get the words out.
When he lifted the hem of his robe to climb the steps, he again drew himself in, holding his breath as if he’d stopped breathing altogether. On leaving the ruler’s place, after he had gone back down the first step, his expression became relaxed. After reaching the bottom of the stairs, he’d glide back to his position like a bird and resume a reverent attitude.
Confucius said, “If your words lack humility, you’ll find it tough to back them up.”
Confucius said, “The noble person takes justice as their essential, carries it out in accordance with ritual, expresses it with modesty, and brings it to completion through trustworthiness. Now that’s a noble person!”