It was a frosty winter night. I was only four years old. The youngest of five children, I was used to being told what to do. Everyone working together was critical on our little family farm.
My dad, brother and I had just finished the evening chores: making sure each animal had eaten plenty and had a warm bed. Stepping into the cinder-brick farm house I was shivering and thinking, I’m so cold I might die.
Suddenly, Mmmmm! What’s that smell? I take a deep breath. My chattering teeth are forgotten as soon as my nose recognizes mom preparing my favorite dessert. Fumbling, my numb fingers quickly remove the stinky outer layer of chore clothes. I hurry to my mother’s side. She had let me help many times before, and I love it!
Mom smiles at my joy, yet issues a prerequisite, “Go wash up and then you can help me.”
I wet my hands in cold water, smear them across the bathroom towel and hurry back to watch the creation of genuine tummy satisfaction.
Mom’s recipe for rice pudding includes scalding the milk. I am mesmerized as she sets the pan of milk on the glowing, red-hot stove element. In a sort of hypnotic state, my farm boy hand reaches for the glow.
With the eyes in the back of her head, mom sees what is happening. Gently, she raises my arm up and away from the hazard and says, “Don’t touch that. It will burn you.” Sliding her hand up my arm, she holds my hand and inspects it. In her motherly loving and disapproving tone, she says, “Now go wash your hands. This time with with soap.”
Knowing that if I please mom, she’ll be more likely to let me help. I even scrub with the little hippopotamus brush. Back to the kitchen I run, drying my hands on my pants. Mom is still ever so skillfully heating the milk. And the orange-red glow is even more intriguing to me.
As she turns toward the cupboard, I reach higher than my head for the radiating, spell casting stove. Mom sees me with the same eyes as before and snatches my wrist, saving me a second time. She squeezes very firmly and places my hand at my side, “I told you, ‘Don’t touch that.’ It will burn you very badly and it will hurt for a long time. Now if you can’t obey your mother, I’m not going to let you stay here and help.”
Hmmmm. I thought. This is a real paradox for a little guy who doesn’t even know the meaning of the word. Help mom make the best dessert in the world or discover that glowing, radiating wonder. I pretend to wander off while I consider my options. Will it really hurt? Would it be worth the hurt just to be able to touch it?
I stand on the other side of Mom, helping without being asked by holding the bowl or scooting things closer to her reach. It’s almost as if I have planned it. By crowding her on one side she would need me to move to the other side, right next to the stove.
My unplanned plan works. Next thing I know, I’m once again in a trance, staring at the set of orange coils, warmed by the radiating heat. Standing here is a comforting relief from the lingering chill of three hours outside with the cattle.
After a minute, mom turns away from the stove and I reach for the enchanting peril a third time.
Mom sets everything down, grabs my hand and forcefully escorts me to the hallway, “Since you can’t obey your mother, go clean your room until I call you for supper.”
Moping, I scuff my feet down the hall so she will know I’m obeying. I can’t think of anything. I must touch that warm, reddish-orange thing. Standing in the hallway, I pull the bedroom door shut and lean against it looking back toward the kitchen. I don’t care if it hurts. I’ve got to touch that thing.
I go into my bedroom, remove my shoes and toss them toward the closet. With my best stocking-footed stealth, I sneak back to the corner of the kitchen and peek. Mom’s back is toward me. This is my chance!
As if I’m floating, I arrive at the stove. There it is! Curiously, It looks… kind of… soft. This thought only increases the drive to satisfy my curiosity. Mom finishes with the stove and clicks off the switch. But it’s still fiery red.
My hand is only a few inches away. It seems that mother sees me and simply looks away. I’m free! She’s going to let me touch it!
My hand reaches forward. Feeling the intensity of the heat I suddenly pull my hand back. My intuition screams, It will hurt! My brain confirms, That’s what mother said, too. This sudden freedom is now confusing to me. It’s up to me! I’m the boss of me!
My hovering hand lingers as my four year old being makes a naïve, innocent-aged risk assessment and exercises free choice. I don’t care!
The sound of flesh sizzling is new to me. I scream like a four year old touching a hot stove. Then, I hold my breath. It’s a shock to behold the white, crescent shaped burns across my fingers. Cradling the still burning fingers with my left hand, I hunch over and sink both hands into my lap. Wailing in pain, the tears flow as I begin a two-footed hop around the table. Mom turns and catches up to me. She steadies my shoulder with one hand and swats my behind with the other, chastising, “I told you not to touch that. Why won’t you listen to your mother?!”
Good question, huh?
Having vindicated her admonitions, mom promptly applied first aid. My hand healed over the next couple of weeks and everything is fine.
Still today, one of life’s most intriguing questions lingers on: Why won’t you listen to your mother? Whether we call it listening to mother, father, teacher, congregational leader or any other authority figure: What is that thing, that weird drive within each of us? That urge to disregard mother’s mandates and, so to speak, ‘sneak back into the kitchen?’
Am I the only one who wouldn’t listen to mother?
Turns out, I’m not. It’s very common. So many times, we just don’t do what we’re told.
And, why not?
That answer is even more interesting than the question. In order to understand the answer, let’s open our minds a little wider. Let’s look beyond simply doing what we’re told and asking: In order to learn, must each of us, in our own way, ‘touch the hot stove?’
Yes, and no. But the why and the how may be much different than you’ve ever considered. Here are two of The Four Keys:
Free Will aka, Choice and Accountability
Personal / Individual Intuition
This answer, this epiphany, this realization is something many of my clients, family and friends are only realizing in the third, fourth, fifth, and some even in the sixth decade of life.
Each of us has the natural instinct to live our own lives; To experience our own individualized life of experiences.
But again, anyone would ask, in order to do that, must we still touch the hot stove?
That depends. We intuitively know that we have to live our own lives to feel satisfied with ourselves. Unfortunately, all too often, we listen when others tell us they ‘know better.’ Usually, we obey, believing that we will be accepted and/or approved of by the other person(s). Confusion sets in as we consider acceptance and conformity rather than experience and learning. The learning can come in one of three ways:
The conformity will always require ignoring our own intuition, logic and personal experience.
This is where the ability to exercise choice is critical. Choice, when exercised with that intuitive instinct, still-small voice, or gut feeling, or, whatever you call it, enables an individual to accept or reject the admonition from another to ‘not touch the stove.’
BUT, when we believe them, without recognizing the exercise of free will and checking with our intuition, even if only for an instant, we’re surrendering our own keys to our own freedom. This step is where the experiential learning occurs. Therefore, we don’t, necessarily have to touch the hot stove. (Learn more about The Four Keys)
How to get true freedom?
As you make a choice, any choice, you will also experience a result. With that result, you have an opportunity to make another choice: A choice that will likely repeat that experience, or take you a different direction.
Free Will and Individual Intuition are two of the keys to your freedom:
- Live your life embracing your free will and individual intuition with each choice you express in every moment of every day.
- The results of your choices, whether pleasure or pain, and your corresponding feelings, will be liberating and empowering because it was your choice.
What’s more, with these two keys, your actions and your results are always a consequence of your choices and your feelings. Further, your results and your feelings are never shackled to actions or choices of any other person. Thus, metaphorically speaking, the crescent shaped scars across your fingers will bring feelings of confidence and peace having experienced life with your own choices and intuition.
And never again will you feel the need to struggle with negative emotions where another chose for you.
Want to talk about this? Just call me: 208-851-3325