The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom. – Sun Tzu
What does that mean?
Obviously, this quote is a little longer that can be posted on Twitter, so the tweet is usually presented in a shortened version. I chose to go straight to the full version of the quote for this post.
Here, Sun Tzu is talking about a general and their worth to a kingdom. I would postulate that it is equally applicable to any group of people, all the way down to the family level. For a general, advancing is generally considered better than retreat. But a wise and prudent general will do whichever is appropriate for the circumstances.
The comments about desiring fame or fearing disgrace are equally important, as a general who fears disgrace might choose not to retreat when it is the proper course of action, and loose not only a battle, but many warriors, and endanger the future of the kingdom. Therefore a general who retreats without fearing disgrace is a good thing. Better one person suffer disgrace than hundreds or thousands die, or the kingdom fall.
Why is understanding important?
To me, this saying is all about the “big picture.” It is about understanding what needs to be done, and having the courage, integrity and loyalty to do what is right, even if it has unpleasant personal consequences. Similarly, it’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons, not to seek glory or fame (or to avoid their opposites). The proper motivation for all actions is to protect and provide service for others.
Understanding is the key to this behavior. If you don’t understand, how can you do the right thing, except by chance? By understanding, one can do what is needed and avoid any unnecessary (even if it be glorious) action. Even at the level of a household, the adult that puts the needs of the household (country) ahead of their own needs and desires is to be considered the jewel of the kingdom.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Sounds kind of corny, but think about it. What kind of parent would put their needs and desires ahead of those of their family? Yes, there are dysfunctional adults who have serious problems, but there are probably several times as many who are just ignorant or selfish. What kind of families will they raise?
To me, the family is the fundamental unit on which civilization itself is based. Even in cultures governed by evil rulers and completely devoid of freedoms, the family still exists. And when the ruler falls (or is toppled), the family unit remains the strength of the country. Even if you don’t believe the same as I, the family unit is still important.
I’m writing this as a father and husband, so I have a particular view of what my responsibilities are. For a childless couple, the rules would be very different, as you might expect. If you aren’t part of a family with kids, you may have to translate a bit to match your circumstances, but the basics will be similar.
I believe it is the job of the strong to protect the weak. As the dad, I have to be able to understand a situation and do what is proper, even if it is less than glorious. Holding the wife’s purse while she changes the baby, carrying a floral bag full of diapers, or standing in line in the heat and humidity while the others relax in the air-conditioning.
Yes, I could be selfish and refuse to do it unless all of them stood in line with me, that would be very fair and equal, wouldn’t it? But would anyone enjoy any of the rest of the day? Being able to see past the initial discomfort (born primarily by me) allows me to act in a manner that is in the best interests of the family.
Similarly, a few years back, I took a job out of town, as there was nothing available in town. It really stunk, but it had to be done to keep the cash flowing. By seeing the big picture and understanding the needs, I was able to do what was proper and necessary, despite the fact that the bulk of the inconvenience and trouble was born by me.
If you would prefer to consider some other possible “kingdoms,” you could consider your friends, your church, your community, your local clubs or even your country as the kingdom to which you are protecting and providing service. To me, it scales from small to large quite easily. From the military people I know, it seems to be the heart of the warrior, always on their mind. Knowing that helps me sleep better at night.
Life is full of tough decisions. Seeing the big picture and understanding the consequences of your actions (or lack thereof) can help you do the right thing instead of the most convenient thing or the easiest thing. What do you need to do to be the jewel of your kingdom?
From: Twitter, @motivatquotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/suntzu155754.html
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