Filial Piety in America

By James Huang

Filial piety is an expression which everyone should know, yet it is not a common American phrase.  Many Americans are very likely to have never even heard of this phrase, though it conveys an universal theme.  But most importantly, in comparison to the Chinese culture, relatively few Americans thoroughly comprehend its true meaning and significance, and therefore do not live by such a philosophy.

So what is filial piety?  Perhaps our Chinese readers will recognize it better as (xiao shun).  Anyway, filial piety basically describes the correct way to act towards one's parents.  Filial piety consists of several factors; the main ideas include loving one's parents, being respectful, polite, considerate, loyal, helpful, dutiful, and obedient.

Well, the Chinese, along with most other Asian cultures, are quite familiar with this concept, and for centuries, have lived by it.   Confucius considered filial piety an imperative moral conduct.  To the Chinese, it is the central ideology, and moreover, provides the foundation for all other attitudes.  One famous Chinese saying asks that if one does not have piety towards one's own parents, then how can one be loyal towards one's friends, country, or any other?   Consequently, those who are not pious are often condemned, and ostracized.

Although filial piety is such a dominant ideology in the Chinese culture, it often seems absent from American society.  It is a real shame for such an assimilating culture to not have adopted such a widespread and universal way of life.  Even crows find food for their parents when the parents are unable to care for themselves.  So are we humans no better than crows?  Apparently not, when one examines the typical American youth: rebellious, intractable, pretentious.

This attitude of American children, especially teenagers of generation X, can probably be traced to the hippies of the woodstock generation, relentlessly devoted to the freedom of expression.  Americans have always been great supporters of individualism and independence.  Perhaps such attitudes stem even further back; since the colonial times, Americans have always been oppose to authority.

But such attitudes should not be displayed towards one's parents.  Sure, parents are authority figures, but they most certainly mean only the best for their children.  They gave you life, they cared for you, and they deserve only the utmost love and respect from you.

Americans, as well as all other people of all races, need to be more exposed to the concept of filial piety.  Of course, even without knowing the words, many people are pious towards their parents.   Nevertheless, young children can benefit from having more encouragement and reinforcement of such positive behaviors, especially today, with American society facing such severe declines in morality.  Fortunately, organizations such as the Great Tao Foundation are available in the United States to help preach and advocate filial piety.   Hopefully, with the growth of the Foundation, and other such organizations, the morality levels in America, and the world, will begin to rise, and more people will behave with filial piety.