Whether they were biological or surrogate, extended family or adoptive, the people who parented us formed our first and most important intimate relationships. We formed a bond with them like we do with no one else. Regardless of how our relationship changes as we become an adult, for most of us, our parents held us and took care of us as we first learned about the world. They influenced our mind and personality in countless minute ways. It’s from our parents that we first learn to love.
Because of the love from our parents, we believe in the existence of love and, as a consequence, begin to love ourselves and expand that love to our parents. Love of family, especially of parents, is a fundamental love of human beings from which other love grows. I believe that a person is born to love, because we are a product of love to begin with. We are born in love, and we form a family in love, and we give birth in love. We trust in our love. By doing so, we can discover our true self.
Our family, then, is the first training ground for our lives where we gather to help each other grow our mind, body, and soul. We do this by practicing Hyo, a Korean word for love of family expressed as performing our filial duty
. Filial duty teaches that that we should respect, listen to, and support our parents. It is chief among human virtues.
Zhuangzi, an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE, once said, “To be filial out of respect is easy; to be filial out of love is hard.” This quote reflects the true nature of Hyo, in that it must come from a true and benevolent heart. It is the expression of spiritual oneness and gratitude
that comes from a genuine, and unconditionally loving, heart.
In Korea, it is said that Hyo is the basis of a hundred kinds of behavior, the foundation of ten thousand kinds of learning. The family is the most basic unit for the development and practice of good character, where compassion, honesty, sincerity, empathy, gratitude and love must first be learned. From the foundation of practicing filial duty for one’s parents may spring many things such as brotherly love, friendship, camaraderie, affection, or even intimacy.
That’s the value of our family
. Becoming a whole human being involves forming loving and respectful relationships
with our family, especially with our parents, even if our circumstances only allow us to do that in our heart. It also involves forming loving and respectful families if we choose to create a family of our own. Choosing the right partner and treating our children as we would like them to grow up, i.e., keeping the importance of having a loving family in mind as we make decisions, is important for our own growth and for the people and society around us.