I’ve been reading the ancient Chinese sage, Mencius, in a 1998 translation by David Hinton. I like Mencius because he begins with the axiom that human nature is essentially good; which fits into my Universalist theology. Somehow, as I was reading this morning, this passage struck me:
Emperor Hsuan of Ch’i asked [Mencius] about ministers [i.e., ministers in government service], and Mencius asked, “What kind of minister are you asking about?”
“Is there more than one kind?” asked the emperor.
“Yes,” replied Mencius. “There are ministers from royal families and there are ministers from common families.”
“May I ask about ministers from royal families?”
“If the sovereign is making grave mistakes, they admonish him. If they have to admonish him over and over, and he still refuses to listen — they replace him.”
The emperor blanched at this, so Mencius continued:
“Why so surprised? You asked, and I wouldn’t dare be less than honest and forthright with you.”
After he’d recovered his color, the emperor asked about ministers from common families, and Mencius said: “If the sovereign is making mistakes, they admonish him. If they have to admonish him over and over, and he still refueses to listen — they resign and leave his country behind.” [Wan Chang, Book Two, section 9; pp. 193-194]
That’s an interesting distinction that Mencius makes. It makes you ask yourself: which kind of the two types would I be?