Not quite an essay, and not quite a manifesto.
Let's call it an essafesto.
Let's call it an essafesto.
Three-year-old Mickey has enjoyed his run as the family pet and (like all toddlers) has learned to deploy natural resources to his best advantage. He knows if he smiles in a certain way--showing off his chubby cheeks and crinkling his eyelids into little half-moons—we swoon over him and the world is his oyster.
Yet there comes a time when toddlers find that charm alone doesn't accomplish all. For everything else there is lying. Want a cookie but Mom hasn't seen fit to bestow one? Just raid the jar and eat as many as you like and then deny your role in the theft. The fact is toddlers are shocking little liars and why not? Why tell the truth, they reason, if it's not to their advantage?
We saw this play out with Mickey recently at the dinner table. The meal had just begun and Cheryl went back to the kitchen to grab a condiment. Upon her return, Mickey proudly announced, "Mom, I ate all my asparagus!" This aroused immediate suspicion since Mickey's low esteem for asparagus is notorious. He regards it as suspiciously limp, scandalously lacking in sweetness, and he refuses to acknowledge it until the very end of the meal. At which point (he hopes) someone inadvertently clears his plate and he can be rid of the filthy poison scot-free.
That's why his sudden, can-do attitude for asparagus was a red flag. Another flag was his quick turnaround. The idea that Mickey not only pounced on his asparagus right away but hoovered it all up in 10 seconds flat obviously strained credulity.
Cheryl then noticed a green lump near the plate of Mickey's nearest neighbor, six-year-old Madelyn. So Mickey's stratagem became clear. He had "eaten" the asparagus by relocating it several inches to the right where, he figured, it might be eaten by Madelyn or some other hungry child or who knows maybe by a roving unicorn but what did the details matter? The fact was that someone, somewhere was bound to eat it, even if it were only the bacteria in the compost pile.
Of course, that doesn't explain Mickey using the personal pronoun "I" as in "I ate my asparagus." But he might counter that certainly he had consumed asparagus at some point in the past, and hadn't Einstein proved that time was relative? Thus we see the early evolution of a lawyer and politician.
Whatever convoluted rationalizations Mickey entertained, they were dismissed out of hand by Mom who sternly reprimanded, "Mickey that's lying and it's very wrong! You have to leave the table and go back into the high chair in the corner." Mickey looked stricken—the high chair was where Sarah and other babies had their meals. But there was nothing left to do but eat humble (asparagus) pie.
So Mickey learned that lying doesn’t pay and the best laid plans of mice and men are often led astray. Adults can use the reminder too. Sure, many of us actually like asparagus and we’ve long ceased sneaking piles of unwanted mush onto our neighbors’ plates. Or have we? When I get into conflict with my “neighbors” (sometimes known as my wife and children) it is oh-so-tempting to surreptitiously dump the pile of unwanted mush of “fault” or “responsibility” on them. It may not be an outright lie, but still involves self-deception fueled by pride.
Humility is not an easy habit but it is undoubtedly vital. Admitting when we’re wrong, like downing a pile of veggies, doesn’t always taste good at the moment but it is good. Admitting fault and asking forgiveness work wonders because they are true to life, true to our brokenness. And in the long run, as the saying goes, the truth shall set you free—though not necessarily from asparagus.