My six-year-old son returned from Yaya‘s house on Monday to report a thrilling discovery: according to the older boys on her street, there is a really, really bad word that starts with F!
His eyes sparkled as he reported this most important of news. “They told me that there’s this horrible word, and it begins with F. I thought I knew what it was — fat — but they said that that wasn’t it. They said that this one is even worse!” He stared off into space for a moment, almost drooling at the prospect of obtaining this information, and added, “I have to find out what it is.”
He started ruminating about ways he could get the boys to divulge this information, but I interrupted him. “Just forget about it, ” I said. “You can talk to the boys about other things, but I don’t want you to ask them about that one word.”
And thus began our own little Garden of Eden drama right there in the living room. The forbidden fruit had been identified by the powers-that-be, and the predictable results followed. My son immediately mistrusted my motives. The more he thought about it, the more the word seemed better and my intentions seemed worse. If he only had this knowledge, his eyes would be opened and he would gain wisdom! His life would be better! Why would his parent keep him from such goodness?
On her old blog, Simcha Fisher once wrote a post about how the knowledge that Adam and Eve gained from eating the forbidden fruit didn’t add anything to their lives. What they gained was sin, and sin always subtracts, never adds. I thought it was an interesting point, but it didn’t quite resonate with me. I was so thoroughly steeped in the worldview that all knowledge is good, that knowing more is always better, that I couldn’t quite understand the concept that some things are better left unknown.
But as I watched my son ponder this issue on Monday, I finally got it. Just like with the original forbidden fruit coveted by the world’s first son, my child was not missing out on anything by not having it, and it was out of love that I designated it forbidden. I can state unhesitatingly (and from a fair amount of personal experience) that the ability to drop an impassioned f-bomb really would not improve his life; in fact, it would make it a little worse. As I watched him sitting there, a ffffff sound escaping from his lips as he reviewed his vocabulary over and over again, it occurred to me that this is, and has always been, one of the most critical battles of the spiritual life: simply to trust our heavenly Parent when he tells us that some things we desire really won’t make our lives better.