Sometimes when people think I’ve done a good thing, they’ll say something like “you must have wonderful parents,” or “you’ve been raised well.” I’m against this kind of statement for two reasons.
It submits that the worth of my parents’ sacrifices can be measured by the way I turned out. This is unfair to them. If I had turned out to be a bad person, it wouldn’t change the value of what they did; obviously I can’t invalidate their efforts by intentionally becoming a failure. They were good parents, and that deserves credit that’s completely irrelevant to and outside of me as a person.
Yes, I know the statement was intended as a compliment to both them and me, but the system of measurement here is the problem. What if someone overhears, someone whose children haven’t turned out the way they’d like? Compliments like this teach them that, in our culture, the way your children turn out is up to you. And far too many parents spend their lives wondering if things could have been different had they tried harder. That isn’t how humans work and it’s harmful to believe that it is.
(At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory:)
It fails to give me even a small amount of credit for who I am. I am not the person I was when I first moved away from home (not remotely). And I’ve worked hard to become this way. Yes, I’m grateful for my parents’ effort and example, and their influence on me has been important. But I am not them. And there’s no reason why I can’t be a little proud of myself, independent of anyone else. My choices have led me here and they were mine to make.
No, I don’t deserve all the congratulations. I’m lucky, privileged, blessed. But I’m worth a little credit.
What should you say if you think I’ve done a good thing? How about, “hey, you did a good thing.” And if you’d like to add, “can you help me do that thing?” feel free.