Confucius, the great Chinese sage said: “Great men, 1) when rich, do not indulge in sex; 2) when poor, do not move; 3) when threatened, do not submit.”
The term “great men” should be interpreted to include women as well. Greatness certainly transcends sex, age, faith, race, etc.
1) When rich, do not indulge in sex.
The rich and powerful seem to be magnets for the opposite sex.
When I worked in the corporate world, I was acquainted with a gorgeous marketing manager in her late twenties. She was of Scandinavian descent with blue eyes and blond hair and was nicknamed “Hot Legs”. She was a doctor’s daughter and married to a successful advertising sales manager. She confessed to me that she was attracted to the older executives because of her attraction to powerful men. Needless to say, our executives had a “hard time” with her looks. Rumor had it: she earned many promotions even though her professional performance was subpar.
Falling prey to sexual desire, and subsequently basing decisions on personal relationships or favors rather than objective information, would exclude one from greatness.
2) When poor, do not move.
To move, in this case, is compromising one’s principles to gain an advantage. Greatness is based on staying your course to reach a goal, not changing objectives to accommodate the wind whenever it blows in another direction.
The poor and destitute do not have much to lose. Not many would care if they compromise themselves, except that they themselves do care!
Ordinary people value material possessions, perhaps because they represent a yardstick for success. In contrast, great people are moved neither by riches nor poverty, choosing to stick to their principles and do the right thing even at great personal costs.
Left home people deliberately choose to get by with minimal possessions. I do so because I have no choice. I hope that someday when I become rich (i.e. having many big temples and huge bank accounts), I can still uphold the Buddha’s teachings.
3) When threatened, do not submit.
To be threatened means that one’s life is in danger. Most of us probably regard life as the most precious thing we have. Yet, great people do not yield to danger or possible harm to their bodies.
Greatness is in living up to the principles that seem to transcend time, such as kindness, compassion, aiding the poor and helpless, doing good, not stealing, not abusing power, not betraying others’ trust, loyalty, gratitude to those who helped us, selflessness, etc.
In these hard times of severe worldwide recession, which began with the subprime loan crises of 2008, we need great leaders who will step to the plate and liberate us.
These great leaders should focus on action that solves problems, not empty rhetoric.
For example, in the aftermath of the 2009 Haiti earthquake, the government of Haiti all but disappeared. In the subsequent two weeks, the wife of Haiti’s president was seen talking to television reporters about how she luckily escaped serious injuries when the presidential palace collapsed. She further insisted that her husband was going from emergency meeting to emergency meeting. Yet, he failed to seize the opportunity to make public appearances to reassure his people, make appeals to the international community for aid and support, and rally his own government officials to serve their people. I have few hopes for the prospects of this country when led by such individuals.
Likewise, a great country deserves to be led by great men.
I wince every time I hear President Obama (and his aides) referring to himself as a pragmatist.
With all due respect, I believe that pragmatism falls short of people’s expectations. A pragmatist solves what is possible. Great men have great vision, and surround themselves with competent people to help achieve their goals.
Great men are not afraid to tell their constituents the truth. For example, I’m still waiting for our leaders to dare to tell us the truth about our situation. The US government has made promises to its people that it cannot keep; there is no way to get out of our financial predicament without taking the bitter pill – higher taxes and lower social welfare (cut Medicare and Social Security).
I really blame the people for tolerating this hypocrisy. Elect more honest politicians who are not afraid to tell us the truth because we deserve no less.
Finally, great leaders should often undertake this exercise: roll up their sleeves and go and meet with the people they represent. They must not act like royalty; they need to feel, or at least witness, the pain that the people feel before they can understand how to provide relief.