Thanks, Mom

“If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too???”

If I had a dollar for every time my mother spoke that phrase, I’d probably have… I don’t know… eleven or twelve dollars. 

This was her standard, go-to response when I offered a feeble attempt to justify some crowd-following behavior with my own canned phrase, “But mom! Everybody else is doing it!”

Like many other “momisms” of the day, (alongside “Clean your plate! There are children starving in China!” and, “If you keep making that face, it’s going to freeze that way!”) this one ultimately became a great source of humorous nostalgia between my siblings and me. 

To be sure, we loved our mother deeply. But as we got older, we also got a real kick out of remembering and chuckling at some of the well-worn phrases we heard growing up. 

I had occasion to remember this delightful chestnut just yesterday when Joan and I were out driving. Looking over, she noticed I was driving 48 mph in a 40-mph speed zone and gently urged me to “Slow down a little, please sweetie.” I instantly time-travelled back to the age of eight and replied, “But look… everybody else is driving this fast!” 

Say it with me now; “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too???”

HA! Good one, mom!

But then I stopped and pondered for a moment. Despite the fact that I’m sure all 7 billion of earth’s current inhabitants have heard some version of that phrase at least once in their lives, is it really fair to call this wisdom useless and outdated?

I mean, isn’t there something actually valuable being said here… despite the fact that it is cloaked in layer upon layer of triteness, overuse, and banality?

So, I stopped – mid-chuckle – and considered the possibility that my mom was not literally talking about cliff-jumping, but rather using an analogy (or is it a metaphor?) to illustrate an important life principle. 

  • MAYBE she was saying that I should think for myself. 
  • MAYBE she was suggesting that societal norms aren’t always a good North Star for all my decisions.
  • MAYBE she was encouraging me to have the courage to resist peer pressure… even when it might cost me acceptance and friendship.
  • And MAYBE she was saying something very close to the advice the Apostle Paul gave his merry little band of Christ-followers in the city of Rome when he said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect…” (Romans 12:2, NRSV). 

As you might recall, that group of Roman citizens who had heard the Good News and decided to take up their cross and follow Jesus, was ENCASED in a culture that was utterly hostile to their Christian worldview. The pull to conform to that culture was a pull they had to resist every single day.

But I’ll have to confess… when I have occasion to stumble across a long line of people one-by-one jumping off of a tall cliff, the thought DOES cross my mind; “Hmmm. Why are they doing that? Why would so many of them be jumping if it was such a bad thing? Maybe I’ll just give it a try and see what it’s all about. What’s the worst that could happen?”

But then, either the voice of my mother from 50 years ago, or Paul’s words – or quite possibly both – echo in my ear. I step back, turn around, and walk away from that cliff. 

So, I guess I will just have to conclude by saying, “Mom… I’m so sorry I laughed at your advice… even after hearing it for the twelfth time. You were absolutely right…”

“… and I love you.”

Abundant blessings;

2 Responses to “Thanks, Mom”

  1. October 31, 2020 at 2:16 am

    My mom always said that, too. But for some reason, for the first time ever, when I read that phrase I pictured the herd of pigs Jesus cast the demons into, and one of them saying that to another… as they all ran off the cliff. OK, I think I’m getting punchy, time for bed. 😉

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