George Bernard Shaw was a famous British
playwright whose plays are very popular. But because he was of
low birth, there were members of the aristocratic class who
looked down upon him. Onetime when he was invited to a big
party, a well-dressed young man saw him and asked haughtily, "I
heard your father is a tailor, is that so?" Shaw answered with a
smile, "You're absolutely right."
The man said, "Why don't you learn from
your father? Even though this was quite an insult to Shaw, he
showed not the slightest trace of anger. Instead he asked the
man, "I heard your father is a very well-mannered gentleman, is
that so?""Absolutely," replied the young
man. "Then why don't you learn from your
father?" asked Shaw. That arrogant young man had not known how
to respect his elder, and so he ended up insulting himself.
In contrast, during the Han dynasty in China there was a man named Zhang Liang. This man was able to accomplish great deeds because he respected his elders. One day he happened to walk across a bridge. At one end of the bridge sat an old man. The old man deliberately threw his shoes under the bridge and told Zhang Liang to go pick them up. He repeated this three times, and Zhang Liang patiently retrieved the shoes three times and help the old man put them on. Thus he won the approval of the old man—the Huangshigong (Venerable Yellow Stone), and as a present the old man gave him a book. Zhang Liang used the esoteric principles in that book to help Liu Bang win his battles, and he became one of three men who helped found the Han dynasty.
From these two small anecdotes, we can see that the more virtuous and refined a person is, the more he will respect his elders and the more he is likely to succeed. Conversely, the more shallow and uneducated a person is, the more arrogant he is and the more he is likely to get insulted. If we are always cautious, respectful, and compassionate in how we treat people and handle matters, we are really
benefiting others as well as ourselves. If we are young and don't understand much, we should of course respect our elders. If we have some accomplishments, we should still be very humble. We cannot show off our talents, for if the matter is small we might get insulted, and if it's big we might bring harm and embarrassment to our family. It could even be so serious as to bring the whole country to ruin.
Here is another anecdote. Once an artist
was crossing a river on a small boat. He was showing off and
asked the boatman, "Do you understand art?" The boatman shook
his head. The artist said, "Then you've lost one-third of your
life." Then he asked, "Do you understand music?" The boatman said, "Nope"
The artist said, "Then you've lost another third of your life."All of a sudden a storm came up, creating a lot of waves.
The boat rocked dangerously. The boatman asked the artist, "Can
you swim? "The artist nervously said no. The boatman smiled and
said, "Then you've lost three-thirds of your life" Dear friends,
I hope we are not as ignorant as this artist!
Many people think that young people nowadays do not know their manners; or that Westerners are less respectful to elders than Easterners. But such ideas are not necessarily true. There are good and bad people in every race, every social class, and every age group. What is more, the rules of etiquette are set in accord with the time and situation. Why should we discriminate on the basis of differences of race, culture, and customs? Although there are differences of east and west, young and old, rich and poor, and noble and lowly, there is one thing that all people share in common--the basic goodness of the human nature. Whether a person develops a good or bad character depends upon his environment and education.
Every country has its own age-old
traditions and rules of etiquette which are suited to its
people. But now that technology has advanced and the world has
shrunk, the culture and traditions of every country must
change a little so as to harmonize with those of other
countries. In setting up new rules of etiquette, we should
choose what is reasonable and proper, rather than taking the
most "advanced" and powerful nations as a standard.
Our life span passes in the blink of an eye. We will all age
and get old. If we don't respect elders when we are young, who
will respect us when we are old? In teaching the next
generation, our first priority is to teach them to respect
their elders. Then there will be order between young and old,
and naturally there won't be fighting among people.
These lines of "The Rules for Being a Student" describe rules of etiquette from ancient China. Although the times have changed, the spirit of these rites cannot be discarded. If we meet an elder on the road, we should take the initiative and greet him first. Before he has dismissed us, we cannot act as if we are in a rush to leave. We ought to let our elder leave first. Although we don't have to wait until he has taken a hundred steps, we should at least respectfully see him off, not just turn around and leave right away. If we have urgent business and need to leave early, we have to excuse ourselves first; we can't just turn and leave without any explanation. This is also a sign of respect and cautiousness.