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USING IDIOMS 活用成語

An Old Woman Reading by Rembrandt, 1655.
林布蘭《閱讀中的老婦》,一六五五年。

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
照片:維基共享資源

Chinese Practice

見賢思齊

(jian4 xian2 si1 qi2)

to see a worthy person and imitate them

我認識一個人,他總是不停地批評別人。別人所做的事、所說的話,沒有任何一件可以躲過他不斷的吹毛求疵。這讓我抓狂,我發誓永遠不要像他一樣。我把他當做是一個反面的榜樣,他的行為就是我絕對不要做的事。

有一天我跟他提出了這問題。他告訴我說,他之所以對別人最微小的細節都如此挑剔,原因在於他可以看出這些特質和習慣,都是他自己所不想要的,這樣他就可以試著改進自己。我可以理解他的想法,這似乎有些道理,但他還是很討人厭。

他的方法是很消極的,但基本上卻符合《論語》中「自強不息」的核心原則:堅持不懈地改進自己。我朋友的做法和《論語》所不同之處,或許在於孔子所謹慎指出的──自我改進的源頭不在他人,而在於自己、基於自我反省。例如《論語》〈衛靈公〉篇中,孔子說:「君子求諸己,小人求諸人」(君子要求的是自己,小人要求的是別人)。

的確,《論語》的第一篇〈學而〉的第四段,哲學家曾子便說:「吾日三省吾身:為人謀而不忠乎?與朋友交而不信乎?傳不習乎?」(我每天多次自我反省:替別人謀劃是否忠心?與朋友交往是否守信?學業是否時常溫習?)在〈述而〉篇中,孔子自己則說道:「三人行,必有我師焉。擇其善者而從之,其不善者而改之」(每當我跟一群人在一起,其中必有人可以當我的老師。我會選擇他們的優點來學習,也會借鑑其缺點來改進自己)。

孔子認為這樣的做法,可以把區分好壞、相應調整自己的行為這樣的過程加以內化。假以時日,這過程就會習慣成自然。

最後,〈里仁〉篇中有這句話──「子曰:『見賢思齊焉,見不賢而內自省也』」(孔子說:「我們看到賢能的人,就應該想要跟他們一樣;若我們看到不好的人,就應該反省自己是否也犯了一樣的錯。」)這句話的前半段即演變為成語「見賢思齊」。

成語「見賢思齊」的用法皆為正面的。

「見賢思齊」可用英文成語「take a leaf out of someone’s book」(從某人的書中取出一頁)來表達。「leaf」一字的意思當然不是葉子,而是「薄片」,此處所指的是的書中的一頁,如同我們在二○一七年九月二十五日「活用成語」單元中所介紹的「to turn over a new leaf」(翻過新頁,意指「洗心革面」)中「leaf」一字的意義。有一說認為,「take a leaf out of someone’s book」原先指的是「抄襲」──這當然有非常負面的含義。然而,它的確也意指應仿效比你做得更好的人的做法。現今這句話的用法是正面的:看看那些做得對、做得好的人,並試著從中學習。

(台北時報林俐凱譯)

模範生的制度不僅是要表揚學生,更是希望大家能夠見賢思齊。

(The “model student” system is intended not just to reward the student but to have other students emulate their exemplary behavior.)

英文練習

take a leaf out of someone’s book

I once knew a man who would constantly criticize others’ behavior. Nothing that anyone did, or said, could escape his incessant nit-picking. It used to drive me mad, and I vowed never to be like him. I thought him a good model of exactly how not to behave.

One day, I challenged him about this. He told me that the reason he was so critical about the minutest detail of others’ behavior was that he was identifying traits and habits that he would not want to have himself, so as to try to change his own behavior for the good. I saw his point. It made a kind of sense. He was still annoying.

His approach was very negative, and yet at base it was in line with a central principle of the Confucian Analects, the idea of 自強不息: to strive unremittingly for self-improvement. Where the two approaches differ, perhaps, is that Confucius was careful to point out that the source of self-improvement lies not in others, but in yourself, based on self-reflection. In the wei ling gong chapter of the Analects, for example, Confucius says, “What the superior man seeks is in himself. What the inferior man seeks is in others.”

Indeed, in the fourth passage of the very first chapter of the Analects, xue er, the philosopher Zeng says, “I examine myself several times daily: whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful; whether, in interactions with friends, I may have been not sincere; whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher.” And in the shu er chapter, Confucius himself says, “Whenever I am within a group, there will be people there who can serve as my teacher. I would note their good points, and try to emulate them; and I would look to their shortcomings, and seek to improve these in my own behavior.”

For Confucius, the idea was to internalize this process of being able to distinguish between good traits and bad traits, and adjust one’s own behavior accordingly. Over time, this process would become habitual.

Finally, in the li ren chapter, there is the line, 子曰:「見賢思齊焉,見不賢而內自省也。」(The Master said, “When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.”) The first part of this quote gives us the idiom 見賢思齊 (Literally, “to see a worthy [person], think to imitate [them]).

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