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The comic above points out both an attitude that has much for which to be commended, and a fallacy that has much for which to be criticized. This first two panels refer to the attitude, the last panel refers to the fallacy. It is absolutely true that everyone has something about them that’s different, and that that makes them special. Even identical twins often have differences that allow them to be identified after one gets to know them. Almost all parents can tell you that they know each one of their children and consider each one of them to be special. That is, no two people are identically alike. In that sense, like snowflakes, each person can be differentiated from every other person. The commendable attitude is to recognize that and to celebrate our differences in the same way that parents celebrate our differences.
But, the fallacy shows up when we use that to fail to differentiate between people in the mistaken view that by treating everyone as special that we will somehow achieve certain social goals. As the last panel says, “But if everyone is special, then I don’t feel that special.” It has been well pointed out that it is misguided to give everyone the same identical prize in a competition. If there is not a recognition that there are different talents, and different levels of expressing a talent, then what one is teaching is NOT that everyone is special, but that there is no point in striving. In passing, that same fallacy shows up in the marxist dogma of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” In both cases (the same trophy for everyone and to each according to his needs), the aim is incredibly laudable. It is the execution that is faulty.
If the question is asked whether all children should feel equally loved, then the answer is yes. Should each child be appreciated for who they are, then the answer is yes. The pro-life movement has been very good at communicating that. But, does that mean that we should behave as though each child has identical abilities, then the answer is no. If there are two children playing violin, and one shows the result of fervent practice and an underlying talent while the other shows the result of lackadaisical practice and little underlying talent or interest in the violin, then it is clearly wrong to award both the same prize, as though each had played to the same level of proficiency. One child will not receive the encouragement to continue on his or her talent path, while the other will begin to have a false image of himself or herself. Neither outcome is a desirable outcome, and both children can be harmed by failing to recognize their actual performance and future potential.
There is nothing wrong with giving a participation certificate to everyone. But, when the thought that everyone is special, and especially when we say special in the eyes of God, is used to actually diminish the difference in talents and potential between people, then we have fallen into the fallacy. We are special and unique as human beings, each and every one of us. But, we are not equally talented, nor do we have equal potential. Even in Jesus’ parables we can find a hint of that type of thinking. The Parable of the Talents points out that God gives different talents to different people. [In this case, a talent was a sum of money, but it certainly stands in well for our human talents.] That parable also points out that we will only be held responsible for what God has given us, and we will be rewarded if we use faithfully what God has given us. Everyone who is faithful is rewarded, but not everyone is rewarded the same way. Saint Paul points out that we have different gifts, different expressions, and different ministries. But, then, one sees that same differentiation. We are all equally in One Body. However, that does not mean that all are equally leaders or have equal authority.
There is a difference between treating everyone equally and failing to recognize the differences in people. Discrimination is wrong. Hiring someone because they are more talented than their competitors is permitted. We are all special. We are all separately talented. Both are true.