To Be Magnanimous

Knowing how to treat others well is the highest form of art in life. Many of us find it impossible to perfect. The main reason it is difficult is that everyone has different personalities and different needs, making it impossible to please everyone.

Though there are all kinds of skillful means for dealing with others, treating people with magnanimity is the golden rule. Treating others with humility and respect is imperative, but treating others with magnanimity as well makes it much easier to develop affinity. Some tend to be mean-spirited and strict in dealing with others. Because of this, they often find it difficult to win friendship and sympathy.

When dealing with others, we should not consider how others treat us, but instead contemplate how we treat others. By treating others with magnanimity, we can become trusting, considerate, understanding, and tolerant toward them. It is by being generous that the skills, ethics, wisdom, and thoughtfulness we treat others with can be witnessed.

What does it mean to be magnanimous? Let us look at the following anecdote:

As “A” was walking along, someone pointed to his feet and exclaimed, “Why are you wearing my shoes? Give them back to me!” “A” denied the accusation and the two started fighting over the shoes. When the same happened to “B,” he promptly took the shoes off and gave them to the other person. However, when this other person found his own shoes, he realized he had been mistaken. So he returned the shoes to “B”. Annoyed by this, “B” states, “Since I already gave these to you, I don’t want them back.” When “C” was faced with the same situation, he took the shoes off and handed them to the person with a smile. And when the latter came back with the shoes after finding his own, “C” was still all smiles and accepted them back graciously. From the various reactions of “A,” “B,” and “C,” we can clearly see what magnanimity means and the differences in their treatment of others.

By treating others with magnanimity, we can also find peace and harmony within ourselves. Conversely, if we become upset over trivial matters and easily chide others for their mistakes, we become unapproachable. In the end, we will find ourselves friendless. By alienating ourselves and being worried, we hurt others as well as ourselves.

There is a Chinese story about a man building a house, but had a dispute with the neighbor regarding a wall on the land. He wrote to his father, who was a government official, and asked for his help in settling the dispute. The father replied with a simple note, “A letter across a thousand miles for a three-foot-wide wall! The Great Wall is still standing, but the one who built it is long gone.” Just like the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, we will all die one day, so why argue over trivial matters? Therefore, we should treat others with magnanimity. It is the foundation for being human!