Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Emperor's Seed - A Story About Integrity

By Jen Hancey, brown belt

There was once an Emperor from China who had no children and needed to choose a successor.  Thousands of children from across the kingdom came to the palace and were surprised when the Emperor exclaimed that he was going to choose one of them.  He gave them all a seed.  They were to go home to their villages, plant the seed in a pot and tend it for a year.  When they return in a year, the Emperor would judge their efforts and choose his successor.

A group of taekwondo martial arts in a class for adults and children
There was a boy named Ling who received his seed and returned to his village.  His mother helped him to choose a pot and put some soil into it.  Ling watered his pot every day.  Once a week, the children of the village would get together to compare their plants.  After a few weeks, there were signs of life in all but Ling’s pot. 

The weeks passed and Ling continued to water his pot every day.   After a few months, the pots really came to life.  Some had trees starting to grow, some had flowers and some had leafy shrubs.  Poor old Ling still had nothing growing in his pot, leading the other children to make fun of him.  Ling continued to water his pot every day.  A year passed and it was time to return to the palace to show what had grown and decide on the new heir.

Ling was anxious as his pot still showed no signs of life.  “What if they punish me?  They won’t know that I’ve watered it every day, they’ll think that I’m lazy.”  His mother looked him in the eye and explained that whatever the consequences were, he had to return and show the Emperor his barren pot.  Ling and the other children entered the palace gates.  By now, some of the plants were looking magnificent and the children were wondering which one the Emperor would choose.  Ling was embarrassed as other children looked at his lifeless pot and scoffed.   The Emperor came out and started to make his way through the crowd, looking at the many impressive trees, shrubs and flowers that were on display.  The boys all puffed their chests out and tried to look as regal as possible, hoping that they would be chosen as the heir to the empire.

Then the Emperor came to Ling.  He looked at the pot then he looked at Ling.   “What happened here?”  He asked.  “I watered the pot every day, but nothing ever grew.”  Ling muttered nervously.  Then he grumbled something to himself and moved on.

After a few hours, the Emperor finally finished his assessment.  He stood in front of the children and congratulated them on their efforts.  “Clearly, some of you desperately want to be Emperor and would do anything to make that happen, but there is one boy that I would like to point out as he has come to me with nothing.  Ling, come here please.”  “Oh no,” thought Ling.  He slowly sauntered to the front of the group, holding his barren pot.

The Emperor held up the pot for all to see and the other children laughed.  Then the Emperor continued, “A year ago, I gave you all a seed.  I told you to go away, plant the seed and return with your plant.  The seeds that I gave you all were boiled until they were no longer viable and wouldn’t grow, but I see before me thousands of plants and only one barren pot.  Integrity and courage are more important values for leadership than proud displays, so Ling here will be my heir.”  I enjoyed this story because, to me, integrity is something that is within YOU as well as something someone else might see or recognize.  At the end of the day, YOU know your own truth - if you have really been true to the character you portray to others, or if you have been deceptive. Sometimes it can be a difficult thing to prove to others if you have been honest, or have a high code of honor, but what really matters at the end of the day is what YOU KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF and TRY to emulate to others.  Like the homework states, ethics goes beyond being honest. However, it’s also matching not only your words to reality, but your ACTIONS.  What we do every day, on a consistent basis, is the proof of who we really are, at our core.  I think most people try to be good, but it means so much more to have integrity.  To strive to be TRUE to what is just, fair, upright and faithful not only with others, but with yourself.  To me, that is the definition of Integrity.

Integrity should be used in even aspect of everyday life - it’s great when it’s in the “big” moments, like the story in the homework with the racquetball tournament, but it should be used in the LITTLE moments too. Are you being kind and honest  to others, are you being kind and honest to YOURSELF?  Treating yourself with kindness and integrity is important too.  We all know it should be used at work, in the schools, and when we interact with our friends, family and co-workers and community members, but it’s important to not forget to honor and be trustworthy to yourself.  Are you feeding your body the way it should be fed?  Are you working out to the best of your ability?  Are you practicing taekwondo at home on a regular basis?  Others do perceive our actions and the content of our character, but only you know the truth and your true integrity.