Giving Credit, Even to Enemies

Vercingetorix surrendering to Caesar. Painting by Lionel Royer, 1898.

When Caesar ordered that statues in honor of Pompey be restored after they’d been torn down, Cicero wisely informed him, “You have restored Pompey’s statues, but you have made your own secure.”

In other words, because Caesar acknowledged that his enemy still deserved his statues to be established, he wasn’t weakening his position or legacy at all. If anything, it was a step towards ensuring that even his enemies would acknowledge him for well-earned accolades.

In the same way, if a certain president made a comment about a controversial topic that I agreed with, I would intentionally make it clear that I understood his point and agreed with it. Not because I am now in agreement with everything he says, but because such an approach pays dividends in the opposite direction should the shoe be on the other foot, in other words.

A collapse in good faith when it comes to appreciating goodness even in our enemies will lead to extreme political division and eventual massive fallout. For example, just take a look around the world now. Radicalism and pettiness go together.