In the Bible, Isaac and Rebecca played favourites. Isaac favoured Esau while Rebecca loved Jacob more. Jacob loved Joseph most; Benjamin next because these were sons of his cherished wife, Rachel. He loved Rachel more than Leah.
I once heard a father (our church elder) being asked about favoritism. Does he have a favorite? He said: When you look at your fingers, are they all the same size? Do they all look the same? I cannot remember his exact words but I think the gist of his answer was: it is possible that you “like” one child’s trait better than the others (perhaps he/she is more like you or more like your spouse) but you “love” them equally.
I remember another father (my seminary professor) speaking on the same subject. He illustrated with his story: He has a child with special needs. For this reason, he gives more attention to this child.
It is the same with our heavenly Father. God gives special care to his children with special needs. He loves everyone all the same. He gave Jesus to the world because he loves the world – all people whether they love him back or not.
As I think about my 3 children, I like Hannah’s sharp mind, her decisiveness and leadership being the eldest. I like Abigail’s compassionate heart, her kindness and patience with her grandparents, her EQ (she gave me a tissue when she saw me crying when she was just a young child.) I thank God for Mimi’s quiet mature ways; often surprised by the things she says, for the wisdom God gives to one so young.
It is often taught that parents should not compare their children. I do not and must not say (to our friends and/or much less to our children, and definitely not in their presence altogether): “Abi is more compassionate than Hannah” or “that Mimi is the most hardworking of the 3.” (even ‘if’ it is true.)
I remember once when I was with Abigail in the church elevator, someone said: “Your daughter, Hannah yah gaw ah o?” (She’s very capable.) My reply: Abigail is just as ‘gaw.’
I thank God that Abigail stands on her own personality without being intimidated or pressured or whatever it is that one is supposed to feel – when your sibling is more popular than you are. I guess perhaps she knows that in her own way, she has her strengths. She is assured that her parents love her for who she is. God loves her and creates her the way she is.
It is the same with me. When we were young, my sister was the popular one – perhaps even to this day, she still is. People often asked me: Are you the one involved in plays? Are you Marian? Some even called me Marian. Marian is the more popular child of Po Tin. In spite of all these, I never feel insecure or jealous of all the attention my sister has (alright, a little… 😜 ) Perhaps it is my lethargic/phlegmatic personality?
More importantly, I think it has much to do with how my parents raised us. They loved us both. Papa and mama did not play favorites – they might have liked one of us better than the other. I’m more like papa and Marian more like mama. Marian and I know that mom and dad were proud of us both. They loved us each in his/her own way according to how we needed their love.
So my two-cents thought on favoritism … it is alright to have a favourite … keep it to yourself. Love them all the same – short or tall, fat or thin, naughty or nice. For the ‘better’ ones, praise God. For the ‘special’ ones (those with special needs), pray to God. I’m sure in my children’s minds, I am more likeable than their dad or vice versa – at one time or another.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses – parent or child. Yet God loves us all equally. So should we… love one another without favoritism; truly and wholly!