Monday, June 20, 2011

Are you a Hypocrite or a Good Deed Doer?

Confucius wrote:
Heaven repays a person who does good with blessings and a person who does bad with calamity. 
 爲善者天報之 以福,  爲不善者天報之 以禍 (위선자천보지이복, 위불선자천보지이화)
爲善者(a do good person) 天報之(Heaven repays him) 以福 (with blessings),  爲不善者(a do no good person) 天報之(Heaven repays him) 以禍 (with calamity).
Based on the above Confucian saying, 위선자(爲善者) can be translated as "a good deed doer," so why do modern day Koreans use 위선자(僞善者) to mean "hypocrite"?

The answer lies with the Chinese characters for 위. Notice that the Chinese character for the 위(爲) in "good deed doer" is slightly different than the 위(僞) in "hypocrite." 爲(위) means "do," but 僞(위) means "lie, pretend" The other two characters are exactly the same: 善 (선 - good), 者(자 - person). Therefore, the Korean word for "hyprocrite," 위선자(僞善者), literally means "a pretend good person."

The next time someone calls you a 위선자, you can reply, "Really? I guess that means I can expect blessings from Heaven."

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