Jewish Journal

The Allegory of the Cliff

by Beit T'shuvah

December 6, 2012 | 12:25 pm

By BTS Prevention

“But Mom, Johnny’s mom let him do it!”

“If Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”
Does this conversation sound familiar?

Since the dawn of Jewish parenting, The Allegory of the Cliff has been used to illustrate the hazards of peer pressure.  The pressure to get drunk, to smoke weed, to ditch class is supposedly analogous to a suicidal death leap.  But this is not the reality.  Peer pressure—especially the pressure to do drugs—is more like seeing your friend jump off a cliff, walk back to the top unscathed, and tell you how awesome it was.  In the days before my first puff,

I was under the impression that jumping off a cliff would leave me in a pool of blood, thousands of feet below— this is what I had always been told.
But then I saw the truth with my own eyes.  I saw classmate after classmate return from the apparent death leap, choosing to take another jump.  They never once pushed me, prodded me, or told me that I had to jump after them.  They didn’t need to.  All I had to do was observe.

I didn’t see that some of those kids were jumping off the cliff because they were miserable.  I didn’t see that some of those kids ended up in rehab, some ended up in jail, and some ended up dead.  I didn’t see the whole picture.  All I saw was the immediate reality, and the reality was that The Allegory of the Cliff was a lie.

Maybe we should stop lying to our kids.  Maybe, instead, we should start telling kids the truth.  If we don’t, they may do the unthinkable— they may start thinking with their eyes.

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