“Do I allow myself to be dominated by human respect?” – one of the questions asked in the examination of conscience. Sounds odd especially when we go back to the fact that respect is one of the virtues that is mentioned over and over again in just about any situation in the contemporary world. Thus the question: what exactly is meant by human respect? The word “hiya” in Filipino comes close to pointing out the meaning of the term human respect. A form of the word hiya is the adjective “mahiyain” which means shy, meek & timid. As a noun, hiya can be translated as shame. Putting things into context, what the question really asks is this: “Am I letting shame determine my actions?” Taken further, “Do I stop myself from doing good deeds because I am ashamed by them?” When we think of confession, we usually think about the wrong things that we’ve done. The purpose of this question about human respect is to help us think about those times when we could/should have done something good but we opted not to, simply because we were concerned about being judged by others or being put on the spot especially if the act in question is an unpopular one. This same question can also be used to reflect on our own circumstances and situations – are we more concerned about the approval of others than the (intrinsic) moral value of an act? Understandably, there will be practical consequences which may weigh in on the matter, but these should not divert our attention from the core issue. This does not mean that we should just totally disregard the phenomenon of shame and the care of others. They must be taken into consideration, but they should not be the deciding factor on whether we should do something or not. Human respect is valid and important, but, we should not allow it to rule over us. There will be times when we will have to make very difficult decisions, sometimes at the risk of putting ourselves at odds with others, but all for the sake of what is good. When there is a conflict of values, it is always best to choose the higher value.
On a personal note, the above question has been a bit of an eye-opener. I have a good number of questions, thoughts, ideas and reflections brewing within but I would rather keep them to myself (even if they do seem to be worthy of sharing). Why? I’ve said that I’m exhausted, not in the mood, too many “other” things to do, they’re not important, nobody cares, etc. Upon further examination, the above question led me to the real reason: I was thinking too much about the negative reaction of others – I did not want to be judged in a manner which I did not like…but it was really me judging my audience. So after getting into a slump, hearing words of encouragement from my wife, and some thinking about today’s feast day and gospel, here is the first essay in (what I hope to be) a series. This is badly written on purpose (to show a personal struggle of expressing ideas in words), but it still serves as a warm up for other things to come.
To summarize, here’s the twitter version:
Don’t let shame prevent you from doing what is truly right and good.