One day, as I was driving along with my two kids, I was suddenly filled with the need to rhapsodize about their gifts.
“Oh, Amanda!” I gushed. “What I wouldn’t give to have your intellect! You don’t realize what a gift you have, being equally smart in math and verbal skills. Most of us are only good at one of these, but you, my darling, have the rare ability of being able to compute and communicate with equal facility. I am in awe!”
“And you, my Alex! You have the one gift I coveted more than any other… the ability to sing! What’s more, you have natural ability to act. What many of us struggle to acquire, you were born with; those of us without your gifts could never come up with the nuances you exhibit on stage. God made you a performer!”
Amanda, who was riding in the front seat, turned around to her brother.
“She just called me untalented.”
Her brother piped up. “What are you complaining about? She just called me stupid!”
They can be such creeps.
Why do people do this? Juxtapose their talents against those of the people around them, and they suddenly see nothing other than imagined deficiencies.
On the other hand, if you juxtapose their deficiencies, they don’t automatically start seeing their talents. If I’d said to them, “You, Child ‘A,’ are stubborn, and you, Child ‘B,’ are lazy,” neither of them would have responded with, “she called me ‘open-minded,’” or “she called me ‘industrious.’”
We look for derision in praise, but we don’t find the praise in derision.
Maybe it’s something we should start doing.