Wu He was a famous scholar in the Song Dynasty (960-1276), whose mother raised him with strict discipline.
One day his mother overheard Wu He talking to a guest about other people's shortcomings. After the guest left, she gave him one hundred lashes with a cane.
A relative tried to calm her down saying, "Talking about others' strengths or shortcomings is commonplace among scholars. What is so wrong about that? There's no need to beat him like this."
His mother sighed and said, "I have heard that if parents truly love their daughter, they insist on marrying her to a scholar who is cautious about what he says. I only have one son. I am trying to teach him moral standards and life principles and hope he will not forget what his mother taught him about being cautious with his words. I help him remember the way we must live."
His mother then cried and declined to eat.
Ancient moral lessons tell us that one has to be prudent about what one says. A careless comment can hurt others more than a sharp knife or a gun. Moreover, as soon as words are spoken, they can't be taken back. They can create resentment and karma, bringing retribution to the speaker. Therefore, a person of principle, one who values virtue, pays careful attention to what he says and does not talk about others' omissions behind their backs. Such a person gives others a chance to rectify and amend themselves in an open and dignified manner, and he also looks inward to see if he has the same kind of omission.
Under his mother's strict discipline, Wu He exercised caution and care with his words and from then on he held himself to a strict standard and focused on the cultivation of virtue and high moral standards. He became one of the most honored scholars of his time.