29 Aug Does Praise of Another Diminish You?
by Erin Weist
I was listening to a speech recently about the merits of fathers in a society. The speaker started by saying he didn’t want to marginalize the work and importance of women & mothers, but he wanted to focus at this time on men and their own important role. I was struck by how common it has become to downplay one group of people in order to placate the ultra-sensitive feelings of another, corresponding group. It’s understandable, in our “safe-spaces” society, that a speaker would be wary of praising men when it is only popular to praise women. But it is an unfortunate, and unnecessary correlation that has been drawn, that if someone praises one person they are somehow diminishing another. This is not only untrue but is more damaging to everyone.
My parents are two of my heroes in life. I love my mother & father both an incredible amount and I look up to them for completely different reasons. I could sit and praise my dad and his good qualities for hours and my mom would only smile in agreement. And likewise I could extoll the virtues of my mom while dad just nodded and threw in a few additions of his own. Neither would ever feel belittled because the other was the focus–because they are a partnership. They know that neither one of them would be as strong by him- or herself, but that the strengths of one bolster the weaknesses of the other. To separate or downplay the importance of one of them would only minimize the worth of the other and, additionally, of their partnership as a whole. Like the Chinese philosophy of Yin Yang, two complementary forces create a whole stronger (and more complete) than the sum of its parts.
When building a home it would be ridiculous to say the architect is more important than the roofer, or the electrician more important than the plumber. Each has a vital role in completing a great project that brings fulfillment to all. Just as we wouldn’t say our right hand is more important than our left, it is ridiculous to say that men are more important than women or that one race is more important than another. (This parallel extends into many other discussions: try suggesting to someone that women should make wiser decisions in their attire and the places they visit socially to protect themselves from unwanted advances and many times a listener will translate that to believe ALL blame is being placed on a woman who is violated– when in reality one person’s actions don’t negate the responsibility of the other. It is merely a choice on focus.)
So while an exchange of ideas can certainly include all sexes, all races, all socioeconomic statuses, when one group is the focus we can remember that it doesn’t diminish from us or from any other group. We each have our own important roles and responsibilities in families and in societies, and, just like building a house, we are building a future society for our children. Bolstering, praising, and encouraging improvement in each role will only strengthen the whole house.