Did You Touch The Flame?

I’m sure most people have the experience of having their parents give the warning “don’t touch the stove” because the oven is hot. Maybe not in those exact words, but nonetheless, nearly all of us have had our fair share of the infamous childhood warnings. You know, look both ways before crossing the street, and so forth. I’m using the stove, and better yet, the flame from the stove as a metaphor. Of course all of us know that the oven and stove can produce fire.


Fire has its uses, but to the young untrained child, it purpose, or rather its benefits cannot be realized at such an immature level of understanding. I’m simplifying the actions of most people to respond to such circumstances one of two ways. Either you take heed of the warning, and don’t touch the oven, or you decide to touch it anyway and then you deal with the consequences. The consequences being that you get burned. There is pain in the consequences, yet that pain tends to bring understanding and experience on how to deal with the fire. Then there’s the one who listens and trust the words of the wise and decides to believe that the fire is not good for them to touch.


It takes a bit of faith to take heed of the warning and recognize the danger and the potential consequences without actually touching the fire. In the end, both the one whose actions are driven by first-hand experiences of touching the flame, and the one who trust the verbal warning, both end up learning the same lesson. So the big question is which path lends itself to learn the greater lesson: the path of being scorched by the flame or the path of not ever getting burned? Who comes out the wiser? Better yet, does it matter which choice you make if the same lesson is learned in the end? No matter which choice we all make as individuals, when it comes time to give out our own warnings, we usually always make sure to offer up our experiences, warning about the flame, telling of the pain you would feel, and the time it takes to heal.


I have never known a person who said, I let my child run in the middle of the street without looking just so he could get hit by a car and learn his lesson. We as parents, as protectors, as humans, by instinct, warn the ones we love to keep them from harms way. So if we inevitable warn about the flame when given the opportunity, are we then conceding that there’s a benefit of teaching about the flame so that there can be the possibility that a few would listen to the words from the wise? Are we admitting to the fact that we hope people would be able to understand and make good choices without dealing with unnecessary pain from bad decisions? On the other hand, some argue it is a “rite of passage” to expect every child to learn by getting burned. There are those who go as far to say, it is better that you get burned and feel all the pain so that you come out the stronger.


I agree that sometimes, the experiences and pain we go through do help us come out the stronger, but who would invoke and even encourage the pain and consequences of making difficult decisions, when they had the knowledge and experience to teach otherwise. As we all mature, we get a general sense of how we usually respond to an opportunity of touching the flame. We tend to either touch it the majority of the time to see just how much it burns, or we back away to save ourselves from the inevitable pain. We either say I want, or I need to experience the pain first-hand in order to believe it, or we say, I don’t like playing with fire. Some of us tempt the flame; even mock the flame, by trying to protect oneself from the pain and consequences by reaching out with a fireproof mitten. Yet even fireproof mittens can’t stand the heat of an intense fire. The flame doesn’t go away, just our choices and decisions to not be lured by the flame’s seductiveness. Here I ask again, have or will you decide to touch the flame?


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