Giving & Receiving

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


The Importance of Pleasing

To please all people is an art that no one can accomplish.  “Allen Leuten recht getan ist eine Kunst die niemand kann.”   This can be seen in every profession, every innovation, and every situation.  It is experienced by politicians who belong to different parties, with different ways of presenting their beliefs and ideas.  If everyone thought alike and wanted the same things, we would need only one political party, which could satisfy all of the citizens.  Politicians attempt every angle to please every constituent, every person in their district.  How can a multimillionaire want the same thing as an impoverished human being when their circumstances and needs are so different?  How can a rabbi teach/preach exactly the same as a priest or a minister?  How can a blind man see colors; how can he avoid obstacles, as does a person with clear vision?  Can an abused child feel safe?  Does a laborer who dropped out of high school want to hear the philosophy of Hegel or Dewey?  Is that what he wants to study in his leisure time?

 There are folks who want to please so much that they deprive themselves to please their friends and their children.  Parents who are overindulgent and who do not discipline their offspring as they grow have sons and daughters who will not be welcome by others.  The losers will be the children as well as their parents.  Adults who give too much to others without reciprocity from the takers will become resentful and may desert their erstwhile “friends.”  Users and abusers are not pleasers.

 Looks have something to do with pleasing.  We are not pleased with the appearance of some people.  We are at times repelled by some individuals who seem ugly to us.  Yet the same persons can look pleasing to others.  If all of us would find the same facial or physical characteristics pleasing or desirable, there would be very few who would be appreciated for their appearance.  There are, of course, standards of good behavior and pleasing personalities.  We hear someone praised for his or her “sweetness,” which to others are thought of as “saccharine!”  We have certain expectations of our fellow men or women.  The culture also makes a difference in determining who is and who is not considered pleasing or acceptable.  A masculine woman or an effeminate man is generally not considering pleasing to most people in our western culture.  A Jewish person who denies his religion is not acceptable to an orthodox Jewish individual, who is by the nature of his beliefs is carrying out as much, as many, and as strict his caryagim (613) Mitzwot blessings/good deeds as possible.

 As mortals, we cannot expect all things of all people, nor can we be blindly judgmental.  This type of behavior is never one that is pleasant or heroic to most normal folk.  There are of course exceptions:  Adolf Hitler is one of the most well known of one who attracted people like himself:  cruel, brutal, and judgmental.  The “Rosches,” the criminals, the majority of Germans followed him.  There are of course exceptions to every situation, despite standards and “average” beliefs.

 That which pleases today does not indicate that it pleased yesterday or that it will do so tomorrow.  Historically, parents taught their children right from wrong with physical punishment.  One of the Biblical stories speaks of the mother of Absalom, who tied her son to a table leg and hit him while telling him, “If you are evil, the world will hold me responsible” (Mein Sohn Absalom, wenn du wirst schlecht sein wird mir die Welt die schuld geben.”)  Today the educated parent is directed to use positive reinforcement.  Reinforcing good behavior through praise and reward is allegedly the answer to producing normal children whose parents are pleased with the outcome.  We do know today that force and aggression creates delinquents and human beings who will become the proverbial misfit adults who anger and/or suffer from depression, who have the tendency to retaliate for what was done to them.  They may become narcissists whose sole gratification is pleasing themselves.  It is the story of Chad Gadyo, or in simple English slang, “what goes around, comes around.”

 Fitting into the culture, society, and beliefs of “our fathers” begins early in life and is experienced and learned in infancy and childhood.  In our literature and folklore we have many examples of people who are pleasers and those who are not.  Advice is freely available.  There is a suggestion for young men who want to marry a polite, pleasant girl:  “If you want to marry a mannerly, pleasing girl, observe the mother’s behavior (Willst du um die Tochter bitten, schau dir an der Mutter’s sitten).”

 What we do know is that in order to receive we must give.  We must be a good example to our children, to our neighbors, and those with whom we come into contact.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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