Student News

Words to Live By: Be Your Best Self

Friends, Mary Ellen – May 20, 2014

“By nature men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.”  –Confucius, 551-479 BC

This quote from Confucius’s The Analects has multiple meanings. It is referring to human nature and is saying that at birth humans are basically the same. This quote can be applied to people’s talents, abilities, and accomplishments, but Confucius’s probable meaning deals with benevolence and being a gentleman. Confucius’s main point is that we should strive to become more polite and educated– overall “superior men.” There are many factors that shape our nature and make us good-natured and kind or cruel and unpleasant. In order to find our place on this spectrum of personality and character we must act as well brought up and cultured people. Although some are born into greater advantages and others have no choice but to live in extreme poverty, the only way people can differentiate themselves is by striving to be the better both morally and ethically.

I interpreted this quote differently than Confucius, and to me it deals not only with morals and ethics but also with working hard to become the best person I can be. This quote is extremely relevant in my life because I am trying to differentiate myself, not only morally and ethically but also academically and athletically, from the many students at Deerfield. I always strive to be the best in order to stand out from the crowd and to be the person I can be. Good grades and athletics alone will not get me into the college of my choice, so I also try to be polite and to be morally strong. Getting into college is not my main goal in life, but remaining firm in my beliefs and having good morals will always be important to me. I know that there are many students who have good grades and are amazing athletes, but what separates me from some of them that it is in my nature to work hard. Every person has a different personality and it is in my disposition to remain true to my morals and to not stop working until I have achieved the goals I have set for my self. Although in academics and sports I am similar to other students, my personality, work ethic, willingness to try, and morals are what set me apart from my peers. I believe that this quote is relatable to myself and to life at Deerfield Academy.

At Deerfield, almost everyone is trying to find something or many things that he/she excels in. Many students want to distinguish themselves in order to look better for colleges. Students often focus on academics and athletics as ways to stand out, but they often forget the main lesson Confucius is talking about, morals and ethics. As teenagers in a competitive setting we try to be the best at one thing or another. Some students focus on academics by taking AP courses, others excel at music, and many kids try to be the best at sports. What we really need to do is take a step back and reevaluate our priorities. We should be focusing on how to become well-mannered individuals with strong characters. At this school we are nearly alike not only in nature but also in our goals. The way we become “ wide apart” from each other is not from academics and athletics, but from our dispositions and will to have good values. What separates the bad, good, great, and excellent students/musicians/athletes is the individual person’s nature, morals, and ethics. That is why the quote from The Analects is so relatable to the students at this school. We all are very similar, but what separates us, and what we need to focus on more, is how we treat each other and how we present ourselves.

— Claire Petrus ‘16