I was talking to a friend who recently went back home after living for a while at school. She told me something surprising: "Every time I came back home in the past, I would argue with my parents. But this time, I didn't have any arguments. In fact, I feel so happy and grateful recently, sometimes, I just randomly shout 'Thank you mom! Thank you dad! I am so fortunate!'"
I asked, "Wow. What changed this time?"
She told me, "Well, I started to realize how difficult it is to be my parents. For example, my mother woke up late from being tired, but then she goes and makes breakfast for me right away. My dad works all day, but he still gives me a massage even when he's tired. Despite all their hardship, they show their love and care for me. How can I not feel happy and grateful?"
Coincidentally, just a couple days ago, I attended a class on traditional Chinese culture, and the topic was filial piety (which means being a loving child towards parents). The teacher told us that our love and respect towards parents start when we see the hardship that they go through for us.
Parents sacrifice so much for their children. They sacrifice their sleep and freedom to raise us. They give us all the best things they can afford. When we're sick, they take us to the doctor and spend all day with us. When we're sad, they try to comfort us. None of this is easy or convenient, yet they willingly do this for us without requesting anything in return.
Upon reflection, I realized that my mother sacrificed a stable life in China to come to Canada to give me a better future. She also worked extremely hard to raise me all by herself, put me through school, make sure I was healthy, and even set up her retirement so that I don't have to worry about her. Her life has been a hundred times harder than anything I ever went through. When I reflected on this, I felt bad about all the times I gave her a bad temper or made her worry. I also felt internal motivation to make her happy, not because she demands it from me, but because I want to repay her gratitude.
Can You See Their Efforts?
A lot of people complain about their parents, or even resent their parents for not treating them the way other parents treat their children. But if we put ourselves in our parents' shoes, we realize that they are already trying their best. No parent intentionally tries to make their children hate them; they just have limited ability. Every parent shows love to their children in their own way. But sometimes, we don't see it because we're too focused on how our parents "should" be better.
The reason why filial piety is so important in Chinese culture is because they are the closest people to us, and we owe the most gratitude towards them. How we treat our parents is our true selves, and it will be how we treat others, such as our spouse, friends, and leaders. If we are always thinking about how our parents don't treat us well enough, then we will also act the same way towards other people. If we always look at the contributions and good points of our parents, then we will do the same for other people.
Filial piety starts when you feel gratitude for your parents. Gratitude starts when you focus on all the hardship they went through for you. Once our heart has gratitude, we will naturally feel happy and fortunate. Then, we can share our positive energy with the people and world around us.
Gratitude starts with our parents and then expands out to all the people around us. Your siblings sacrificed things for you. Your good friends gave their time, energy, and things to you. Your teachers, classmates, boss, and colleagues all helped you. The question is, do you focus on their contributions or their imperfections?
What hardships did your parents go through to raise you? How can you repay their gratitude?
Repeat question 1, but for other close people around you.
Weekly Wisdom Newsletter #192
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