As usual, this letter is as much for myself as it is for you.
I don’t think people watch “Pinnochio” anymore. When I was a kid, I watched Disney classics, and this was one of the scariest. The part where that child-catcher guy meets with the Fox in the tavern and says, “ohhh, they never come back–AS BOYS!”
Pretty sure he turned into a demon in that scene, and boy I tell you what, it scarred me as a child. Anybody else remember that?
That movie taught some good lessons, chief of them being “don’t lie” and “listen to your conscience.” That movie showed some terrifying consequences of ignoring the counsel of those placed in your life as authorities. It showed good grownups and very bad grownups; showed how good children behave and how bad children behave.
It was a pretty old-fashioned movie, which is I guess why kids don’t watch it so much anymore. I would say it represented pretty well what the world is like.
Then something happened to us, and we started making kids’ movies all say the same sorts of things:
Be true to yourself.
Follow your dreams, no matter the cost.
Listen to your heart.
Do whatever makes you happy.
Is this a grandma-post? Yes. Does Grandma Jo believe in total depravity? Yes. Did 12-year-old Jo once rewrite the lyrics to Raven’s “True to your heart” song with the following lines:
True to your heart // you must be true to your heart // that’s when the heavens will part // and baby, shower you with lightning // Open your eyes // your heart will tell you some lies // so just be true to your heart // and babe it’s gonna lead you straight to hell
…well, yes. You have to keep in mind that I was a serious-minded child.
But here’s my point. Telling children to listen to whatever their heart/emotions tell them is not helping them know what the world is like.
There are serious consequences to ignoring what your conscience says in order to do whatever you want. Your feelings and desires don’t always agree with your conscience. Pinnochio taught that in a way that most Disney films don’t.
If you’re a Christian, the consequences of not listening to your conscience are serious. You can become calloused to what you know is right and wrong. You can lose your sensitivity to what the Holy Spirit is prompting in your life. You can stop growing in Christ. You can seriously damage your witness to others.
Anytime we decide to modify the code of behavior to suit our actions, rather than modifying our lifestyles to fit an ethical and moral code that doesn’t change, we’re taking a big risk. We’re assuming that our hearts and emotions won’t lie to us–something the Bible says just ain’t so (see Jeremiah 17:9).
There will be situations in every person’s life when he or she is tempted to do something wrong, and a decision will have to be made: do I yield to this temptation, even if my conscience is nagging me, or do I stay firm in what I know is right?
Neglecting to teach children about the dangers of ignoring their God-given consciences cripples them as they grow and learn through experience what the world is actually like.
Here’s what it’s like to be tempted: the more you give in, the harder it will be to say “no.” But the more you stand firm, the easier it will be to stand firm. Not that temptation will ever go away completely in this life–if anything, Satan will try harder and harder to steal your joy as he sees you pursuing Christ and His holiness.
But if you’re a Christian, you have a weapon against temptation that is not ordinary. The weapon you have is “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (1 Corinthians 10:4-5).
In Pinnochio, the conscience is represented by Jiminy Cricket, a cartoon insect who, arguably, isn’t too great at his job. Because Pinnochio doesn’t listen to him, he might as well not be there, honestly. But the song he sings advises Pinnochio to run from temptation–from things that seem like they’re what he wants, but really are not good for him:
When you get in trouble, and you don’t know right from wrong // give a little whistle // when you meet temptation and the urge is very strong // give a little whistle // not just a little squeak – pucker up and blow // and if your whistle’s weak // yell, “JIMINY CRICKET” // take the straight and narrow path // and if you start to slide // give a little whistle // and always let your conscience be your guide
The Bible’s version of this advice would be something like this: flee temptation. Get up. Run. Set your mind on Christ. If it helps you turn your thoughts from evil, YELL JIMINY CRICKET!
That last one’s not in the Bible, but just try yelling it and see if someone doesn’t come ask you what’s wrong with you. Maybe they’ll pray with you, or talk with you so that the tempting thought subsides before you can act on it.
Do what you must to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
But don’t ignore your God-given conscience and pretend that you can’t ever be led astray by your own thoughts or emotions.
Dear Aglet, I write all this because I need to learn it.
Love, Grandma Jo