Published on 2023.11.16


Devoting all our efforts, devoting our heart and soul


“I have no regrets as I have tried my best.”

We often hear this saying, and sometimes even me will say that. However, is putting “effort” equates to no regrets? We often witness the blaming in interpersonal relationships – either among the boss and the staff, among colleagues and friends, and even among lovers and family members – “I’ve exhausted all my efforts already. What do you want from me?” Those who say so are in distress while those who hear that are sorrowful. What is the root of the problem?

Tang Chun-I (唐君毅,1909-1978), the leader of Contemporary New Confucianism, and his student Fok Tou-Hui (霍轁晦,1940-2018), both said that the core of life is “our nature and our feelings(性情)”. Feeling is the momentum for life. The life of humankind needs to be open, sympathetic, and empathetic. Therefore, since ancient times, it has been said that, “If I have someone that knows me well, my life is completed and I will die with no remorse” (得一知己, 死而無憾). If the one whom I truly care expresses his/her understanding, acceptance, and empathy. Thus, we will find no remorse in our life and even death could not steal the completeness in life.

Most of the problems in life in our cohort are originated from the failure in interpersonal relationship, which leads to trauma, as well as its avoidance arisen by shutting in ourselves, which further leads to depression. Our life gradually withered, our heart is shut-in, eventually one will easily breakdown, collapse, and become deeply wounded. After several vicious cycles, eventually one will end up with destruction.

Therefore, the real problem we are facing, is the withering of our feelings and emotions. This morning, I read The Classics of Filial Piety (《孝經》, Xiao Jing), Confucius said, “The service which a filial son does to his parents is as follows: In his general conduct to them, he manifests the utmost reverence. In his nourishing of them, his endeavor is to give them the utmost pleasure. When they are ill, he feels the greatest anxiety. In mourning for them (dead), he exhibits every demonstration of grief. In sacrificing to them, he displays the utmost solemnity. When a son is complete in these five things, (he may be pronounced) able to serve his parents.” (子曰:「孝子之事親也,居則致其敬,養則致其樂,病則致其憂,喪則致其哀,祭則致其嚴。五者備矣,然後能事親。」) (James Legge Translation, 1861). The key word here is “utmost” (Zhi, 致). Zhi means “to the extreme”, or “fully express”. What kind of “full expression” we are looking for? It is the utmost expression of feelings. Then we could find that the most important aspect in filial piety is not measured by how much “effort” we have devoted nor how much “work” we have done. Instead, the most important criterion of filial piety is what kinds of “feeling” we express to our parents, how deep is our “emotion” on them. To fully express our respect, to fully express our joy, to fully express our worries, to fully express our mourning, to fully express our solemnity, all are the expression of “feelings” that we ought to have. If we devote our heart and soul to our parents, the feeling will definitely become sincere and profound. This is the golden and righteous path to behave as a human being. Therefore, in ancient Chinese saying, “The word Qing (情) is the key to maintain our world in harmony (情之一字, 所以維繫世界).”

In fact, the most important matter of our life is actually “feelings” (情). If we were convinced that we had already devoted all our “efforts”, we need to go one step further by asking ourselves, “Did I fully express my feelings”? By doing so, we can come back to here and now, face the one we care with sincerity, devote our heart and soul, with true feelings. If one could persist like this, could be regarded as devoting “wholeheartedly”. Hence, living in the world, other than devoting our efforts to people and responsibilities, we need to fully express our feelings and our heart.  

Dr. Rex Chan

Adjunct academics of the Dharmasthiti College of Cultural Studies, Chief supervisor of teenagers.
Bachelor in Arts (Chinese Studies and Philosophy), The University of Hong Kong.
MPhil in Chinese Philosophy, Wuhan University and PhD in Chinese Philosophy, New Asia Institute of Advanced Chinese Studies, Hong Kong.
Over 15 years of teaching experience, including life education, youth training, philosophy lectures, cultural and history courses, teachers development training and organizer of various reading Clubs in Hong Kong.

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