Do not play favorites | Inquirer Business

Do not play favorites

Even Jesus, who loves us all equally and boundlessly, had to choose people for His mission (see column on July 4, 2014).  From the Jews (“the Chosen People”), Jesus selected 12 apostles.  Among them, He favored three:  Peter, James and John.  Among these three, He loved John most of all.

But Jesus never played favorites.


Start young

Having favorites is natural, but playing favorites causes trouble.  While parents have their favorites, they should not actively side with one child over the other, or else sibling rivalry worsens.


When children fight, it would be best for the parents to model proper behavior by setting guidelines:  “Tomas plays with the robot for 30 minutes, then Simon can have his turn for 30 minutes.”  “Divide the pizza into eight slices.  Each of you can get two slices.”  “Starting Grade Two, you will get an allowance of P50 a week.  But in Grade Four, you need to clean your room to earn your allowance.  These rules apply to everyone.”

Teach children how to “fight fair.”  Then stay clear, and let kids handle minor disagreements among themselves.

It is inevitable that children feel hurt when they believe that another sibling is the favored one.  But when parents take the time to explain perceived inequalities, then children may not resent the situation as much.

“When you were born, we spent every minute with you,” Dad tells Tomas.  “But now you are already a big boy.  You are four years old and you know how to do many things on your own.  We need to spend more time with your brother, little Simon.  But when Simon goes to sleep, then we will read you a book.  Deal?”

When rules are established, and parents are seen as not siding with any child, children will likely not perceive the situation as unfair.  Conflicts arise one sibling is seen as unfairly getting his or her way most of the time.

Similarly, guidelines are essential in the family business.  While Tomas may be the favorite, when shares are divided, for example, it would be best if he gets equal shares with the rest of his siblings.  While equality is not always fair (see column on March 21, 2014), chaos will result when siblings believe that the favorite gets more money, shares, privilege—not because he is the most capable or the most hard-working, but just because he is, has been, and will always be, the favorite.

Play fair


Jesus played fair.  Peter, James and John probably knew they were the favorites.  Whether or not the other apostles resented this situation the Bible does not say—I suspect that being human, they were likely envious at times, but had to live with it.

When left unchecked, favorites can try to take advantage of the situation.  When James and John thought that Jesus was establishing an earthly kingdom, they began jostling for position.  “Let one of us sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your glory,” they told Jesus (Mark 10:37).

Jesus rebuked them immediately.  “You don’t know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”  (Mark 10:38).  In essence, He was asking them, do you know what being my favorites entail?  Do you seriously want to be my favorites?

Jesus expected more from His favorites.  In Gethsemane, Jesus commissioned the three to stay with Him and keep Him company.  But disappointingly, they could not even stay awake.  “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?…The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Luke 22:40-41).

Not easy to be favorites

Favorites in family businesses often complain that it is not easy being the favored ones.  They have to kowtow to the founders’ needs in personal ways (bring the patriarch for check-up, accompany the matriarch on shopping trips).  They are expected to take work leaves to be at the beck and call of the parents who allegedly favor them.

Among Jesus’ favorites, only John escaped a violent death.   James was put to death by Herod Agrippa a decade after Jesus’ death.   When Peter learned he would be crucified, he felt unworthy of dying the way Jesus did, so he was crucified upside-down in Rome.

As for the other apostles, Andrew was crucified in Achaia, Thomas pierced by a lance in India, James stoned in Jerusalem, Jude a martyr in Persia, Matthew a martyr in Ethiopia.

Founders may have their favorites, but they need to act wisely.  Jesus’ personal favorite was John the Beloved, but He built His Church upon Peter the Rock, deemed the successor, the most capable of them all.

Next Friday:  Family harmony, a reprise

(Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center.  Get her book “Successful Family Businesses” at the University Press (email [email protected])  Email the author at [email protected])

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