21: Cutting Through

Current circumstances call for confronting a thorny situation and cutting through it. Somehow, the way to harmony and unity is blocked or frustrated—perhaps by a tangle of deceit or corruption. Like Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot, take decisive action and you will meet with good fortune and even your destiny. Don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit. The ability to take corrective measures when they are needed is an essential trait of leadership.

Those who bring discipline to bear must, above all, be honest—with others and with themselves. Honesty is the hallmark of the strong and self-confident. The successful person masters the art of honesty like the swordsman masters fencing. When lies, delusions, and game playing are getting in the way of teamwork, the swift sword of honest action, perhaps even punishment, must be wielded to protect integrity and values. Decisiveness with integrity will bring good fortune.

Though your actions may be vigorous, they must not be hasty, severe, or arbitrary. Be sure to carefully consider all the circumstances. In the case of a serious disruption of relations or events, forgive but don’t forget—at least not until the person has made reparation for his or her mistakes. If corrective action is necessary, make certain that it truly fits the crime. When rules have become slack and useless, only through the institution of clear and swift penalties can their effectiveness be restored.

In those situations where serious issues of justice are at stake, keep careful records; and do not hesitate to go public with the truth.

Changing Line Interpretations

Line 1 (bottom line)

A first offense is not cause for condemnation and stiff punishment, but some form of corrective action may be needed in order to prevent further transgressions. If you have been wronged, confront the matter openly but without hostility.

Line 2

A true miscreant must be held accountable for his or her transgressions, and all serious violations of decency should be dealt with directly. However, there can be an inclination to go too far in such situations, especially when feelings of personal indignation stir things up. Even so, some sort of penalty is warranted.

Line 3

In trying to cut through a knotty problem, it’s easy for your saw to get stuck in the wood. Old, hard feelings may still be attached to a problem and can kick back at you when you attempt to correct past wrongs; but it is not your job to rewrite the past. If the guilty do not submit, you cannot solve the problem. At this point, there is no blame in walking away from the whole situation, before it gets any worse.

Line 4

When facing great obstacles or powerful adversaries, do not overreach your authority and never outstrip your resources. Move ahead with caution, and strengthen your resolve. Persevering through difficult situations brings good fortune in the end. When biting through a tough nut, sharp teeth may be required.

Line 5

This changing line points to a difficult situation. Decent people have a natural tendency toward leniency, but when the facts of a situation are clear and a grievous wrong has been committed, strong corrective action needs to be taken. Such action may take the form of punishing those who have committed the offense. In such a case, bear in mind that the priority of one who administers correction is to make sure that the punishment is effective. In other words, let the right punishment serve its highest purpose—to help the offenders to understand the wrong they have committed and prevent them from committing it again in the future.

Line 6 (top line)

Those who believe that small errors can do no great harm are sliding down a slippery slope to ruin. If you become accustomed to disregarding or making excuses for small mistakes, you will eventually become incorrigible; and guilt will accumulate until stern consequences become inescapable. Such obstinacy begets misfortune.