[FOUNTAIN]The Origins of Respect

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[FOUNTAIN]The Origins of Respect

Zigong, a disciple of Confucius, asked his master: "What do you think of a person who is loved by everyone?" The master said, "That is not proper." Zigong then asked his master, "How about a person who is hated by everyone?" "That is not proper, either," Confucius answered. He then said, "That man is no better than a man only loved by good people and only hated by bad people."

The questions and answers are from the chapter 13 of the Analects of Confucius. The story shows that a man who is favored by only good people and hated by bad people at the same time is actually better than someone who is respected by everyone.

Respect is paying high and special regard. The English word, respect, has its root in a Latin word, respicere, which means to look back. When we say we look back at someone, that also means that we have come to respect that person. In his book "The Art of Loving," German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm writes that respect is the ability to pay special attention to someone's unique quality, and Mr. Fromm cites the origin of the word.

George Bernard Shaw said that the more sense of shame a man has the more we should respect that man. Mr. Shaw felt that the sense of shame and the sense of good and evil are the basis for creating respect of others. Confucius also took the sense of shame along with the sense of good and evil as the basis of respect. In the Analects of Confucius, there are 55 subchapters that begin with the word, "a man of virtue." It is not an exaggeration that the book provides thorough principles that guide a man to become a true gentleman.

A true gentleman, defined by Confucius, is a man who can harmonize with other people, but maintains his or her own identity at the same time. A true gentleman is a person who has many friends, but never separates them into groups nor takes sides. A true gentleman puts more weight on silent actions rather than fancy words. A true gentleman has a strong, resolute and humble attitude, and speaks concisely.

In the Asia and Pacific regions, Korean youth pay the least respect to elders, according to an article in the Oct. 11 issue of the JoongAng Ilbo. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund surveyed 10,000 youngsters aged 9 to 17 in 17 countries. The report showed that only 17 percent of the Korean youngsters answered that they respect elders.

In Korean society today, adults typically have no sense of shame; they are always busy trying to win partisan fights; what they usually try to provide is nothing more than lip service. After seeing such behavior, wouldn't it then be strange if our youth respected elders?

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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