Monday, March 22, 2010
The problem with too much praise
I think criticism is necessary to the human condition. When a great public official in Rome was given a victor's parade, there would be a companion in his chariot whose responsibility it was to tell the man being celebrated that all fame is fleeting. Rome had it right on that score.
Sometimes a sincere and devoted man can offer his help best by giving criticism to someone he loves. When the only response which is tolerated is that the person is "doing great" or is "wonderful" there is stagnation and failure.
I love baseball. All young men should play baseball. It is a game of failure. If you only fail 70% of the time as a batter, you can become a Hall of Fame player. No amount of praise will compensate for a .110 batting average. Criticism is unnecessary.
One of the Simpson's "Treehouse of Horrors" episodes had Bart being omni-powerful. Because of his great powers, whenever anything bad happened people would say, "it's good Bart did that." This was to appease the all-powerful Bart. It only made him worse. Funny episode involving a cartoon character, but with a powerfully true underlying message. Too much praise corrodes. Worship of demigods inevitably risks making demons of them.