[VIewpoint] You are what you say to others

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[VIewpoint] You are what you say to others

Recently, I was pleasantly impressed by Professor Ahn Chul-soo’s remarks on a television show.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology professor, who is the founder of computer security firm AhnLab, said he always uses honorific terms with his co-workers and employees and has never rebuked them or used abusive language.

He even uses honorific terms when he argues with his wife, so he never gets into a serious dispute.

His polite manner is influenced by his mother, who always used honorific terms with her children. When he was serving as an military officer, he went through awkward situations when he could not bring himself to talk down to privates.

His story reminded me that, after all, children are mirrors of their ultimate teachers, their parents.

Another time, I was quite surprised when I saw several middle school girls talking boisterously on the subway. Half the time, they were using inappropriate foul language.

What was more surprising was that they didn’t seem concerned about the people around them.

When an elderly man who was sitting next to them scolded them for their behavior, they looked at him as though it was none of his business.

Of course, such behavior can only be found in a small number of students, but I could not help feeling bitter.

Your language reflects your character. Language is a habit. A habit is something that sticks in your mind or body through repetition. Once the body and mind acquire a habit, it is very hard to change it.

Therefore, you need to learn the right way from the beginning.

When you first use a swear or slang word, you might feel awkward. But after using it for a while, you become insensitive to such inappropriate speech.

The saying, “What is learned in the cradle is carried to the grave,” is especially true for linguistic habits.

Hence, we need to train ourselves and refine our speech throughout our lives just as we cultivate our minds.

If young children use impolite and inappropriate speech, the parents are largely responsible.

We all learn our first words from our parents.

All of us use language to express our thoughts and feelings. Language is also the primary tie that binds one individual to another.

A wise man uses words to reveal his dignity and maintain fine relationships with others.

Speech is invisible, but it exerts tremendous influence on a person’s life. If you have an unpleasant conversation in the morning, you feel gloomy all day long.

Sirach 5:13 reads, “Honor and shame is in talk; and the tongue of man is his fall.”

We need to take responsibility for our speech at all times. “Benedictio” means “blessing” in Latin. It literally means to speak well, so a blessing is to speak of someone positively. We should make conscious efforts to use good language.

When Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan passed away in February, his last words were, “Thank you. Please love each other.”

At first, I thought they were quite banal for someone who was an elder not just to the Catholic Church but also to Korean society. However, when I dwelled on those words over and over, they became truly delightful.

What is more warm and moving than gratitude and love? Why don’t we say words of gratefulness and affection at least once a day?

Let’s say, “Thank you and I love you.” Let’s ask ourselves if we indeed speak good words to others.

*The writer is the director of culture and public relations for the Archdiocese of Seoul. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Heo Yeong-yeob
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