Not Without Honour

Does familiarity breed contempt? I don’t think it has to. Marriages can strengthen over time. Friendships can deepen. We can grow to love people more and more the longer we know them.

But I do believe that familiarity often leads to underappreciation. We may have a hard time putting our family and friends into the same category as people of prominence whom we know very little about.

Isaiah anticipated that this phenomenon would make it hard for some people to recognize the Messiah. “He hath no form nor comeliness,” Isaiah wrote; “and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, Mosiah 14:2). I don’t think that he meant to say that the Savior would be unattractive, just that He would seem ordinary. He would look and act like the people around Him, and His greatness would be completely hidden from those who only noticed His everyday activiies.

Of course, the people who heard of the miracles He performed didn’t think He was ordinary. Matthew tells us that “his fame went throughout all Syria” (Matthew 4:24). Mark tells us that at one point, Jesus couldn’t walk openly in the city because people “came to him from every quarter” (Mark 1:45).

But He didn’t get the same reception at home, among the people who knew Him best:

And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?

Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Matthew 13:53-58

Samuel the Lamanite noticed a similar phenomenon among the Nephites in Zarahemla. They respected historical prophets, whom they had never met. “When ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.” But when it came to living, breathing prophets, the story was entirely different: “If a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him” (Helaman 13:25-26).

Why do we tend to underestimate the people closest to us? Here are a few possible reasons:

  1. We emphasize superficial things (“the outward appearance”) and fail to notice their more important characteristics (“the heart”). (See 1 Samuel 16;7.)
  2. We pigeonhole them based on past experience, and we therefore fail to notice their growth and progress over time.
  3. We assume that we know our friends and family better than we actually do, so we stop expecting to be surprised.

What is the antidote?

We need to approach our relationships with more curiosity and humility. We need to allow the people we know best to surprise us, to exceed our expectations. Above all, we need to be grateful for them and treat them with respect.

Today, I will honor the people I know best. I will strive to learn more about them and to learn from them. I will recognize their strengths and celebrate their accomplishments. I will avoid the fallacy of Jesus’ neighbors and of the Nephites in Zarahemla by truly appreciating the people around me.

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