The Ancient Chinese People's Concepts of Having a Sense of Shame

Confucius once praised those learnt men of stature who knew shame in everything they did. A man with a sense of shame will not be overcome with the temptation of money and will not compromise his integrity in the face of a threat or danger. He is modest and good-natured. He yields to others and he takes only what he needs. Whether it is his personal ethics, pursuits or patriotism, a man's sense of shame is a prerequisite to his moral conscience.

Confucius said, "A person must restrain his behavior with a sense of shame." Confucius also said, "Knowing shame is akin to courage." A man must know shame before he can reflect upon his faults and aspire to improve morally. A man who knows shame will be courageous enough to face his own mistakes and conquer them. This is a courageous act.

Mencius said, "A person without any sense of shame is no longer a human being."

Mencius argued that human beings are born with an innate moral sense. He believed that human beings are born with sympathy, a sense of shame, a sense of yielding and a sense of right and wrong. These qualities are the seeds of kindness, loyalty, propriety, and wisdom. Only beasts are not born with these innate qualities of kindness. A man with a sense of shame will persevere in morality when tempted with fame or wealth.

Mencius also said, "Human beings must not live without shame. True shame is not to know shame at all."

It takes a lot of courage to admit one's own mistakes. A human being feels ashamed when he sees his inadequacies, but it is not too late if he has the courage to face and conquer them. A human being is incorrigible if he settles on feeling ashamed of his mistakes or if he does not feel ashamed and parades his mistakes as honorable.

Zhu Xi, a famous Chinese philosopher in the Song Dynasty, said, "A man with a sense of shame will not do things he should not."

A man with a sense of shame is determined to make the right decision when choosing between rich and poor, gain and loss, or loyalty and self-interest. He will not let desires run amok. A man without shame is capable of any crime.

Lu Kun, a scholar in the Ming Dynasty, said, "Even a threat of five tortures cannot measure up to a sense of shame." Even the strictest criminal laws and the cruelest punishments cannot teach a sense of shame. Lu Kun believed that teaching people to know shame is far more important than imposing severe punishments. Once people's morality level is enhanced and they have a sense of shame, they will know what they should and should not do and can tell right from wrong. It is a far more effective way to prevent crimes than punishing people after they commit crimes. This is one reason why Confucianism believes in educating people first before punishing them.

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