She wanted the pencils, I could tell she did. Her daddy sat with her on the too-small chair in the child section of the bookstore. I watched them with stranger’s eyes, slowly browsing a shelf nearby. She was deciding between a small, educational activity book or a set of beautiful princess pencils. She held the book in one hand, the pencils in the other, and quietly asked her daddy which one he thought she should choose.
He repeatedly told her it was her decision to make, she could choose either one. No sooner had the words come out of his mouth than he was giving her a list of pros and cons about each potential choice:
The pencils are pretty, but the activity book might last longer.
The pencils have to be sharpened and then they get smaller and smaller and eventually disappear.
The activity book has pages and pages of endless fun.
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What a great image of the trap of people-pleasing we all get sucked into so often. We get so concerned with rules and right/wrong that we miss the heart-matters.
Thanks for sharing this practical reminder of a spiritual reality.
I fear and obsess, too, sadly. I would have chosen the activity book and later mourned my lack of assertiveness. LOL!
Sadly, I would have chosen the activity book and then envied everyone who had pretty pencils. The fear of “what if I get it wrong?” has paralysed me so often that instead of the abundant life that God promised, life feels narrow and confined. God is challenging me on many fronts about this fear so thank you for being honest and being His voice in this season that I find myself.
Oooo, I so am the type to weigh out all the what-ifs and potentials and probably would have picked the activity book…unless the pencils were extra “happy” but even then. But, I so want to pick the fun more often and just live in that!
Oh Emily, this is one of my favorites of yours. (And that is saying quite a bit).
Up until recently, I would have chosen the activity book EVERY time. But today, I honestly think I would choose the pencils. In my 30some years of battling fear (of failure, of choosing wrong, of change, of rejection, of you name it!), I think (by the amazing grace of God!) I’m starting to win a battle or two. And wow, there is such freedom in that.
Along those lines, I’ve found such encouragement in this verse: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – Rom. 8:15
Adoption Mama says
I’m not sure what I would do. But I know my girls would have chosen the pencils…because they are pretty.
This post was very soul searching.
I loved this post. To answer you’re question, I would’ve been alot like you in my choice. Practical over Fun.
I did not miss the underlying message in this post, though. Fear of Man is such a snare, for me…and although I’ve come a long way…I can still struggle. A lot.
Thank you for the thought provoking and soul searching… you’ve encouraged.
I’d have chosen the activity book and been sad that I didn’t have the pretty pencils. I struggle with making the ‘right’ choice myself. I don’t want the criticism of others. I struggle to be me…sometimes feeling I have lost me…bending myself into the right shape that pleases everyone else. I’ve finally realized I can’t please them all. Now, I’m on the search to find my authentic self and try to bring her out of the dungeon of my heart. It’s tough work, but I keep digging letting the tears flow as I stumble across the broken pieces that locked me in there…trying to be brave enough to finally be who I am…whatever that is.
Considering my upbringing….I would have chosen the book….and longed for the pencils. I feel the choice your daughter made shows that you are raising a very secure little girl!! BRAVO!!!
I think I probably would have chosen the book. I have been learning a lot in the last couple of years how most of my life has been lived in fear of being criticized, ridiculed, thought less of… you name it. I have just begun recognizing those moments in my life and am beginning to be able to figure out which thoughts and feelings are truly mine and which are those I “think” will make others happy or help avoid conflict.
However… I think part of the reason I would have chosen the book would have been because I also have tended to be a pretty logical thinker and I’d have agreed with the dad’s reasoning. I could use any old pencil to have fun in the activity book. I wouldn’t have cared what it looked like.
Loved this post. And like you, at that age I would have chosen the security of the book and pleasing my earthly father over my hearts desire of the pretty pencils. However, as a grown up girl and daughter of the King, I am learning to walk confidently by faith and trust that my hearts desire is His will.
Blessings from Hong Kong,
Southern Gal says
Emily, thank you for this. My 8yo son is having tremendous problems making choices these days. He’s in tears most of the time as he looks at me and asks which I would choose. He struggles with choices every.single.day. I believe you’ve lifted the clouds for me in that I have a little insight to what he’s struggling with. Fear. Now to approach this “stage” with newly opened eyes…
i thought it was a trick question, but i would have chosen the book. I thought that was the “right” choice. Choose life or death, I thought that it was the best, like what she “needed” and not simply what she wanted. sometimes I thought God is like that, He gives us what we need and not always what we want. But I have to say, I always go with the “right” decision ignoring what I WANT to do, and sometimes what I want to do is was God wants me to do as well. brave girl, it’s better to be honest then “right” esp if “right” is wrong and not TRUE. God knows our hearts.
I would’ve chosen the pencils, too. I was always in the moment, not looking toward the future. I wouldn’t have cared that the book lasted longer. I would’ve wanted what I wanted at that moment. I guess you’d say I was spontaneous, maybe others would call it something else. It’s part of my ADD.
Clara – you are right on. That fear of getting it wrong is exactly what holds me back so often.
From one people pleaser to another, thank you. So well said.
the other emily
Christy B. says
Without a doubt I would have asserted my independence…inside my head, and then, driven by guilt and misery, would have placed both back.
Southern Gal – Thinking of your son has brought tears to my eyes, simply because I can so relate with how he is feeling. I am amazed to think this post gave you insight into his heart, and so thankful.
Paula Jean says
Emily, thank you for this thought provoking post. You’ve illustrated how my mind works…so clearly.
I certainly would have chosen the book up until about the past year. Now, I’d like to think I’d pick the pencils, but the truth is that I have to think about it so hard that there’s still work to do. 🙂
Thanks for getting me thinking!
Want my honest answer? As a kid, and even now as and adult, I would have found a way to end up with BOTH. Yup. I would have bartered additional chores, payment, an advance on a birthday gift…something. Or, gone home with one (probably the book) and then DONE SOMETHING and convince my dad (or self) that I now DESERVED the pencils too.
Shameless but true.
Okay, Jeannett, that is hysterical! Are you some type of executive? Because I’ll bet you’d make a great one. Or a really savvy Mom. Either way, I love your honesty on this.
emily…funny…i worked in corporate america for years and am now a SAHM. savvy is a fun word. sure, i’ll go with that! 😉
Here’s the thing about me…I would not have asked my dad for his opinion. The choice would have been totally mine. And that is oh similar to my relationship with my heavenly father. I’m working on it. But it’s not my natural bent to ask Him what He thinks.
Lindsey Nobles says
no. i would have probably not chosen the pencils. and then i would never be happy with my decision.
the domestic fringe says
I definitely would not have chosen the pencils, because I was trapped (and probably still am in a big way) in the mode of pleasing others and being over cautious and so-on.
This was a great post…just what I needed. Thanks!
Melissa Multitasking Mama says
As a recovering people pleaser I am happy to say I wouldn’t have now but as a little girl I would have given in.
And, I love your ability to notice big things in simple stories!
I’m pretty sure I would have chosen the book and then flaunted the fact that I chose “wisely” to my sister who would have, no doubt, chosen the pencils. Yikes! People pleasing AND pride all wrapped up in one little sinful me. I am so glad for the truth of freedom in Jesus! In fact, He often uses my daughter to help me see those truths. She would have asked my opinion and gone with the pencils BECAUSE she knew I’d want her to get the book. 🙂 God is good. And, oh so smart!
Sarah @ For the Love of Naps says
I loved this post. Thank you!
The Scooper says
Sadly, I probably would have chosen the activity book…and then wished I’d chosen the pencils. I still agonize over the trivial. I’m getting a little bit better though. I need a pair of practical black flats that will go with everything but I really want yellow ones instead. So I’ve opted for yellow when I find the right pair. And I’m going to wear them with everything, even if black is the more sensible option.
I loved this post.
Megan Wright says
Thank you for the very timely message. Fear, and especially fear of what others think, is something I am constantly battling. It is even something I am battling today regarding a decision to make (in which neither is a “bad” choice). Thank you again for your wisdom!
As an adult, I would have chosen the pencils. As a smaller version of me, I would have chosen the book.
At age 32, I’m living my childhood when I can. I didn’t get to do it the first time around.
Jenny Lynn says
Such a great post!!!
I was the exact same way as you. In fact, I’m still that same way. So focused on the practical. I have the worst buyer’s remorse EVER. I want to please my daddy so much – even as a married adult. If he had made a point that the pencils were not the best choice, I would have gone in the direction he was leading. Not wanting to be impractical and not wanting to disappoint him.
It’s comforting to know that other women face these same struggles.
Bomi Jolly says
Loved this post…I feel like giving your little girl a big hug lol!! I will remember this story the next time I want to make a decision:). Thanks for sharing!
Moriah @ Please Pass the Salt says
Absolutely. I struggle far more with selfishness than with pleasing other people. We all have our battles, yes? 😉
I’m sure I would go with the book. Even when I’m with people who care deeply for me and who (probably) wouldn’t judge me based on that sort of trivial thing I feel like I need to weigh every decision on whether or not it will be approved of. And I can’t stand that about myself. There are some things that I’ve made my decisions on and now I get a hard time about it from all kinds of people (even strangers who have no business telling me how to do anything) and it makes me so mad. But I rarely have the nerve to say anything about it to them.
I want to be a pencil girl, I just don’t know how…
What a great post.
I wouldn’t have chosen the pencils either, I would have tried to do the right thing in the hope that I would please my father in that way as being who I was, was clearly not enough.
That little girl must have an awesome relationship with her Daddy and thankfully our heavenly Father allows us to choose too, even sometimes prompting us to choose fun…choose life…choose joy.
What an interesting question! I would certainly have chosen the practical over the fun – especially if my mom was watching me. I wouldn’t have wanted her to even see that I wanted the pencils. I would have just longed for them silently.
That’s a fear I could stand to let go of…
Always a people pleaser, I would’ve chosen what made sense and was practical– the activity book.
I still struggle with making mountains out of molehills.
I would have chosen the pencils…I like pretty…but Iprobably would have felt guilty for not choosing something that would last longer. Great post!
You know just the other day when I was praying about a situation–I honestly believe God told me to “lighten up”. Yeah–you could say a weight was lifted. I can’t tell you how many times He has to remind me to not try so hard. I love your story and how it came about in a book store as a bystander. What’s more sad to me is that not only would I have chosen the book, is that I would have laid the guilt trip on my child also about choosing the pencils—uhg. I think this post just gave me some clarity on a situation with my oldest daughter (20 yrs.) Thank-you for this.
I would’ve absolutely chosen the pencils… beaten myself up over it… hemmed and hawed… and eventually returned them and bought what I wanted. What a painful process! I just went through this with a set of coffee mugs I wanted, but my mom told me was impractical… really?! How impractical could coffee mugs be?! I returned the mugs and am going back to get the ones I wanted in the first place. HAHA!!!
Just a lass hiking with Jesus says
I would have picked the pencils. I have this thing for office supplies and art supplies. I hoard them and never end up using them until they are dried up… I would have saved the pretty pencils and kept them in the package and gazed at them over and over, not wanting to spoil them, never finding a project worthy of them. They would have gotten dusty over time and then when the eraser was all dried and hard and unusable I would regret having bought them. Sadly, I still do this today… Lord, save me from it! It is a horrible fun stealing habit and a hard one to break!! And I really don’t want to pass this on to my kids!
Wow. Thank you for this. All my 50 years I have struggled with making decisions never feeling I had a right to make my own. I would have chosen the book. This post has transformed my thinking. Tomorrow I’m going to replace my brown Columbia jacket that has a broken zipper with a maroon one AND a blue one because that’s what I’D like. 🙂 What a burden lifted.
Somehow, this was exactly what I needed to hear today Thank you!!!
Oh, how we relate and can learn from this story.
Once again, a lesson through a child’s eyes.
As a child, I would have chosen the activity book! Today, I am still very practical and frugal, but do get the “fun” when I find something I love and can afford!
this reminds me of Deut 30:11-20, about choosing life. 🙂
So beautifully written. I would have chosen the book as a little girl because I was a people pleasin’ little gal and would do anything for approval. But now? I’ve weathered more storms in my life than I would care to admit and I think I would have chosen the pencils. I learned through my trials that sometimes practicality has to give way once in a while to a little fun. Possibly because I discovered that my worth isn’t determined by anyone here on this earth so trying to overly-please someone is in vain.
I love that she chose the pencils. It shows an ability to think and reason independently – I also love how she didn’t really make the choice to please her father but herself.
Well-written and observant of the everyday. Loved this post, Emily!
Erin @ Closing Time says
I would have chosen the activity book, but in my heart I would have mourned the loss of the beautiful pencils.
What a great post. I don’t know which I would’ve chosen, all I know is that it makes my heart happy to know that the little girl chose the princess pencils! Precious!
Mary @ Passionate Perseverance says
hmmmm…this made me think, ponder, obsess. Yep, I would still be in the bookstore trying to figure it out. Fear is a powerful slave. Thank you for making me think outside my box this morning.
tiny twig says
i would have picked the activity book as a child. never wanted to disappoint anyone. now, i would hope i’d choose the pencils.
i love it
i love how you take an everyday moment & find the spectacular
I would have chosen the pencils but felt selfish and guilty later. I would have worried that my parent was disappointed in me and that “everyone” surely knew how selfish I was.
I have a daughter that often tells me what I want to hear instead of what she feels. I am trying to be a safe place where she can learn to express her opinion while at the same time give her the courage to speak confidently, but considerately.
What I do enjoy about growing up is not being so tossed emotionally by others and feeling more sure of myself in Christ.
I determined this year to make decisions without driving myself crazy and wasting so much time. It is hard, but I have learned so much.
I would have chosen the pencils. Then I would have gone home, gotten some paper and string, and made my own activity book. Of course, I was the artsy type so this isn’t the best example for me. I do struggle a lot with “fear of man” but more in the area of public behavior or dress (eg. I wouldn’t talk about certain topics in order to not offend people)
I WOULD NOT HAVE chosen the pencils-but I too have a little girl age 4 who is TEACHING how that is the BETTER CHOICE!
Great analogy. I would have also chosen the book because I was so preoccupied with making the “right” choices.
Ivy T says
Pencils. Definitely. It was a given in my family that, even if you asked for advice, you were encouraged to make your own decision. It was a very empowering.
Sarah Dunbar says
At first I thought I would have chosen the activity book, to please another and because I love activities, but after I read Christy B.’s comment I most likely would have put them both back. I do that now thinking I don’t need either, the practical or pleasure and that I could probably make my own but wouldn’t.
Thank you for something to think on.