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Posts Tagged ‘obey’

How to Tell When One Needs to Dissuade One’s Parents

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Years and years ago, after I had taught my kids to persist in trying to stop parents from transgressing against moral righteousness, my kids would argue with me when I asked them to do certain unpalatable things like studying, saying, “You told us to dissuade you from doing what is wrong” and “You said we didn’t have to obey or cooperate when we sincerely believed you to be wrong.” Of course, allowing that would have been tantamount to issuing young children a license to disobey parents and to be totally uncooperative.

So I gave them a simple rule to use to tell when one needs to disobey and dissuade one’s parents. It wasn’t just when one believed parents to be mistaken, it had to be when one’s parents were about to or in the process of committing an offense against moral righteousness. It was when obeying and cooperating would have helped your parents succeed in committing that offense. The test for children who were still too young not to be self-centered and stil too young to be any good at abstract thinking, was that it had to benefit the parents or the whole family, not benefit or please the children themselves, to not follow the parents’ orders. And, it was emphasized, the need to disobey parents rarely arose, if ever, for most children.

Otherwise, even if they sincerely believed the order to be dead wrong, like studying some more instead of playing when they already believed themselves to have fully mastered the material, they were still to defer to their parents’ judgment and obey the order.

It is on big and moral issues such as, say, one parent philandering and wanting to divorce the other parent that children must speak their opposition and attempt to dissuade, and persist in the performance of this duty no matter what.

Again, hopefully one never has to oppose one’s parents.

Of course, as the children grow older and approach adulthood their judgment is trusted more and more and they need to defer to their parents’ judgment less and less. Fifteen I have found to be a watershed: around that age children’s minds morph and mature into a more adult like mode. They become more capable of abstract thought and are no longer as self-centered, becoming capable of seeing things in general and seeing their own situation in particular from an objective instead of a subjective point of view. Around age fifteen I have started letting my kids call their own shots when it comes to things like when to study. Of course, even though I tell them I will no longer issue orders once they reach fifteen, it doesn’t mean I don’t bug them about things.

Feng Xin-ming

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When Not to Obey or Cooperate with Parents

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

According to Confucius, one must not obey or cooperate with one’s parents when doing so will land one’s parents in moral unrighteousness. Of course, this is an infreqent circumstance that one may, with luck, never encounter, but one must do one’s duty when the circumstance arises.

One day, one of Confucius’ foremost disciples, Zeng Zi, the author of the famous Xiao Jing (Classic of Xiao 孝經), stood still and let his father hit him over the head with a stick in a fit of rage. Zeng Zi almost passed out, and his father felt great remorse after. Zeng Zi, however, felt that he was displaying xiao by “accepting punishment from his father.” When Confucius heard about this, however, he got very angry. He severely reprimanded Zeng Zi for lacking xiao in having stood still instead of running away. Confucius said that only if his father was holding a thin twig should Zeng Zi have stood still to take the punishment. By letting his father hit him over the head with a stout stick, Zeng Zi was sinking his father into moral unrighteousness (陷父於不義). Indeed, what if Zeng Zi had died, Confucius asked. Then the father would have been guilty of a serious crime. Zeng Zi’s cooperation to let his father succeed in committing an offense against moral righteousness, Confucius stressed, was a great transgression against xiao.

According to another famous Confucian thinkers, Mencius, going along with instead of dissuading parents from moral unrighteousness is the second greatest transgression against xiao (the greatest being not having offspring).

Therefore, it is a Confucian, i.e. traditional Chinese, principle that one must do one’s best to dissuade parents from doing what is immoral or unrighteous. According to the classic Di Zi Gui (”Students’ Rules”), one must, in a soft tone of voice and with a smile on one’s face, advise one’s parents against the matter that is morally wrong. If the parents don’t accept the counsel, then one waits until one’s parents are in a good mood and then again try to dissuade them. If that fails weeping and wailing follows, and even if one’s parents get annoyed and angry to the point that they hit one, one should not mind. ( Di Zi Gui, page 9)

Feng Xin-ming

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