In ancient China, there was a Chinese warrior who was very arrogant and so rude that he often bullied his neighbors. One of his neighbors was a white-bearded elderly man who lived with his three sons. One day, the elderly man asked his three sons to come over, saying:
“I’ve been in charge of the household for most of my lifetime, and have often been bullied by others.
“Because of that, all of you have suffered a lot as well. Now that I am getting old, one of you will be placed in charge of the household. Today, I’m giving each of you 10 pieces of silver. You are to go out and do some virtuous deed. The one who has done the best and shown the most virtue will take the helm of the household.”
After a period of time, the three sons came back. The father thus asked them to share their stories.
The eldest son said: “I saw a woman trying to commit suicide, so I jumped into the river to bring her ashore. Since she was pregnant, I saved two lives at the same time.” The father nodded without uttering a word.
The second son said: “When passing by a village, I saw a house catching on fire. Since it was very windy that day, the entire village was on the verge of being engulfed in flames. I jumped into the flames alone and put out the fire, saving many people’s lives and property.” The father smiled soundlessly.
The third son said:
“Dad, I feel very sorry for having done such a stupid thing. I just saved someone who often bullies us. When passing through the mountains, I saw the warrior who often bullies us lying on the verge of a cliff intoxicated after coming back from an expedition.
“If he were to turn his body around, he would have definitely fallen down the cliff. At first, I didn’t intend to save him, as it was none of my business. But after a second thought, I thought that we need soldiers such as him to safeguard our borders and fight in the battlefield.
“Eventually, I woke him up so he could avoid falling over the cliff. After he realised what I did for him, he was ashamed of himself and made a deep bow to me before he left.”
After listening to the story, the father burst into laughter, and chose the youngest son to be in charge of the household. The eldest and the second son did not object.
The father explained:
“Saving a person’s life, you only saved an individual; putting out a fire, you saved a household; having someone to enhance the nation’s peacefulness and prosperity can let the general public live in peace so that they can dedicate themselves to their work.
“Your younger brother put aside personal grudges and placed national interest before family interest, which is the highest virtue.”
After the youngest son took the helm of the household, the warrior was very grateful to him and admitted that the way he treated his neighbors was wrong. After that, the two families were in great harmony and became good neighbors.
Since the father and his three sons were righteous people, in particular the youngest son, their great compassion and forbearance finally prevailed upon their arrogant neighbor.