Too

The Three Bears - Project Gutenberg etext 19993
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That Goldilocks! She was one finicky girl, far too particular given her circumstances. There she was wandering around the woods without a thing because she hadn’t thought to bring along a well-packed roller bag. Hungry and tired, her sense of entitlement motivated her to commit at the very least a misdemeanor by breaking and entering.

As she ransacked the home of a young family, she took what she wanted, be it a chair, bed, or bowl of porridge, but thumbing her nose at what she found before settling on the one that was just right.

Goldilocks knew what worked for her, and what didn’t. It saves time and effort. She didn’t have to consider every option, each decision that came along. Whether the item in question was too soft, too hard, too hot, or too cold, the word “too” parted the seas of decision-making.

In the past week I’ve been on the other side of the “too” pronouncement too many times. At a final interview, I learned that they had nicknamed me “the rocket scientist” because they thought I was too smart for the position and organization. (Does one attempt to refute such a perception? No! Really! I’m not smart at all!) At another interview the criticism centered on being “too warm and pleasant.” (No! Really! I’m a mean-spirited, back-stabbing barracuda!) Sunday, the word back was that I was too late; the organization made an offer the very day my resume was submitted. (No! Really! Your decision was made hastily; you need to consider me.)

We paste “too” on people, places and objects all the time. If someone or something is found to be “too,” we are free to reject it outright. “Too” is the scalpel that cuts out whoever or whatever we don’t want. Our edicts deflect the truth. Isn’t it easier to slap on “too,” thus putting the focus in the wrong place, because the simple word hides an essential, complex aspect of ourselves? It’s often hard to know and even more difficult to admit what we want and our real motivations for wanting.

One of the disciplines I’ve learned from Ignatian spiritual direction is to honestly answer a simple question. “What do you really want?” In responding to those five words, posed without an agenda, I have to let go of the frequent use of “too” in order to remove all that is false so that life-giving truth emerges. Doing so means risk. Truth is often dangerous to our own comfortable status quo and the expectations of others. The “too” shield protects us from our own deepest desires and, perhaps, others’ rejections. But there’s a price to pay.

Like most fairy tales, Goldilocks and the Three Bears included, this post offers a moral lesson. What’s too for someone is just right for someone else, as long as it’s what you really want.

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