One of my former grad profs had a chip on her shoulder about a particular theory in our field. She made no secret of the fact that she thought this theory was rubbish, that it represented the most shallow and scattered type of scholarly thinking. The problem was, it was a popular theory, one that many of us found insightful.
It was useful for understanding and framing many of our research projects, yet we knew we didn’t dare use it in her class. Not if we didn’t want to be embarrassed during seminar, or receive a poor grade on a paper.
We later discovered a fact that provided a clue to our prof’s attitude - the scholar who created this theory was a professional rival, and our prof had suffered some career disappointments along the way, because of this person.
Should our prof have “risen above it” and taught this theory with enthusiasm? In a perfect world, maybe. We want our teachers, our parents, our “elders” to be mature about such things, to always display good judgment and wisdom. We expect a lot.
I heard a saying that resonated with me - it went something like: “When we’re little, we think mommy and daddy know everything. When we’re adolescents, we think mom and dad know nothing. But when we mature, we realize that mom and dad know a lot of things.” This has certainly been true in my life.
I think we all have a moment of disappointment when we realize our heroes have feet of clay; our parents have their own baggage, our teachers don’t provide good mentorship, our friends let us down. We expect a lot from those we admire. But if we take a step back, and employ some compassion, we realize: they’re people too. They have their own struggles, and they’re not always strong. Neither are we.
I need to be reminded of this, every once in a while. Admiration and respect are wonderful things, but I don’t have the right to expect others to be perfect. I don’t want them to expect perfection of me.