Dinner Table Pharisees and Born-Again Vegetable Lovers

Mar 10, 2009 by


Keep the heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.  — Proverbs 4:23

“In education, as in religion, it is the motive that counts,” writes educational reformer Charlotte Mason in A Philosophy of Education. Motive is equally important in eating.

As true faith and love that come as gifts of the Holy Spirit are the purest motivators for religious practice or living “by the rules,” curiosity is the most powerful reason for learning. Hunger is the best reason to eat. We might even say those are the only reasons we need.

Phariseeism is doing what we’re supposed to but for wrong or lesser reasons. It’s putting on a show, being a hypocrite. It’s being one thing on the outside and another on the inside. Inwardly, we’re not really with the spirit of the program, but are living in internal conflict with truth and goodness. For example, we may not rob or kill our neighbor, which is great, but is it because we care how other people feel, or because we don’t want to go to jail?

Or children may study their history facts because they want to get a good grade or a cookie, or want to be the best or get a good job someday, rather than because they want to know. Or they eat their vegetables because Mom told them to, or because they won’t get dessert otherwise, or even because it’s good for them, not because it satisfies their hunger, and they enjoy it and feel good afterwards. These situations are less generally seen as a problem than the example of robbing or killing. At least they’re learning, we might say, or at least they’re eating vegetables. Why does it matter how we feel about it as long as we do it?

Yet, I show unto you a more excellent way.

Eating what you enjoy and enjoying what you eat is better for you.

If we don’t enjoy it, it isn’t good for us, at least one study shows. Likewise, without interest or curiosity, how much genuine learning really goes on?

So various methods of “getting kids to eat” what they don’t want to eat, or bribes for good behavior, are about as worthwhile as what Charlotte Mason called “forcible intellectual feeding.”

If have succeeded in getting my kid to eat vegetables but fail to teach them to enjoy them, I am become as a sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. I gain nothing.

When we teach children that their motives generally don’t matter, when we train them to detach their actions from their heart, to conform outwardly while their inclinations lead otherwise, we lead them to be like Pharisees. While it may be necessary at times to do what we should do whether we feel like it or not, and I’m not advocating that we allow children to go ahead and rob, kill, eat junk, or generally indulge their lesser selves, but neither should we be satisfied with outward conformity. It matters what’s in our hearts; we should address the desires themselves.

When our inclinations go against truth and good, it is our inclinations that need to be adjusted, not just our actions. In a state of true freedom—a state of grace—doing the right thing comes of a willing heart, not from a resignation to self denial. That can include dinner time.

Eating what you enjoy and enjoying what you eat is more sustainable.

Why rely on will power to resist what you really want when you can align your desires with what’s good for you? When we love what’s good for us, what need is there for dieting, deprivation, resolutions, guilt, failed efforts to lose weight?

Just as those who learn their history facts for reasons other than wanting to know are less likely to delve into the subject on their own, those who eat broccoli for the wrong reasons eat little broccoli when it’s up to them.

Asking a child to dutifully eat to be healthy is like trying to ask them to fulfill the law. No one is capable of keeping it up. Why make them eat vegetables out of duty when you can free them to eat vegetables out of love? It’s like guiding a carriage where the horse wants to go versus trying to drive it against its will.

Eating for enjoyment produces results.

A child who dislikes what’s good for her has a fallen nature. Her inborn appetite for real things has been warped through the influence of her environment. Born with a taste for Real Foods, she develops a taste for crummy ones. When kids eat something because Mom tells them to, or to get a reward, or approval, praise, or just relief from hounding or out of a sense of obligation or guilt, their appetite for that food shrivels. Prodding them to eat may get immediate short-term results, but it’s counterproductive long-term. It undermines their appetite and builds resistance. When all that matters is results, solid results are actually harder to achieve.

So a child lives, like many adults, in the conflict of what she wants versus what she should. Should she deny herself, take up her cross and eat healthy foods, a slave to the laws of should and shouldn’t, bland and dreary, calorie-counting, low-fat, low-sodium, sugar-free deprivation, or should she give in to her urges and eat junk?

The narrow path between the extremes is a smooth one with a lighter burden to carry: eating for satisfaction’s sake, learning for knowledge’s sake, doing all for the sake of love through grace, in spirit and in truth.

Paradise Regained

Once the paradise of our natural God-given love for natural, healthy foods is lost, it can and should be regained.

A goal for parents in feeding or educating their children should be to shepherd their hearts to love good things, toward self-education and self-feeding.

It’s not that we just need to try harder. It’s not necessary to live in conflict; we can be free by aligning desires with goodness. All it takes is an open mind, a new willingness to explore, taste and appreciate. Good recipes are essential. Hunger is our best ally. The appetite will sharpen, respond and revive. We can get back to our true nature, the way we were meant to be. We trip across health on the way to satisfying our inborn appetite with tasty, well prepared, exciting and varied Real Foods.

Child and parent whole-heartily eating what’s both delicious and nourishing, without inner or outer conflict, is truly a state of grace.

Related Post:

Feeding Kids: How Cleaning up Your Act Can Make Things Even Worse

This post was included in the Charlotte Mason blog carnival

©  Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 15 February 2009 / All rights reserved