There is an old idiom that warns, “Give him an inch, he’ll take a mile.” It refers to making a small concession, and then the other person using it to take advantage in a much larger way. Some people live by that philosophy: as long as the other person says “yes,” keep taking.
One example of this idiom took place in 1974 at a baseball game. The promotion to draw a larger crowd that night at a Cleveland Indians home game was to offer “10-cent beer night.” Ten-cent hot dog night would have been my choice! Nevertheless, the idea backfired on the home team. The drunken fans became so unruly that the game was stopped and the Indians were forced to forfeit the game to the Texas Rangers.
Another idiom that we have embraced is, “The more, the merrier.” Rarely does it occur to us that excess can be to our detriment. For example — besides the game just mentioned — medical prescriptions are meant to help us when we follow the instructions concerning intake, but consuming too much or too often could lead to problems worse than the one being treated.
One man was told by his doctor to limit himself to one cup of coffee per day in order to cut out some caffeine. So the patient followed the doctor’s prescription of one cup per day — one 32 ounce cup per day!
I heard a professional entertainer say in an interview that the performer should always leave the audience wanting more. That idea is contrary to the way many of us think. How often do you acknowledge and accept the serving size as depicted on a bag of potato chips? Lay’s had a clever advertising slogan in 1980 that challenged the consumer: “Bet you can’t eat just one.” Potato chips being America’s number one snack food, most people resonated with that slogan as a fact!
Then there was the guy who asked the chef to cut his medium size pizza into 10 slices instead of eight, because he was hungrier than usual. And the lady who had wondered why Reece’s always came with two smaller cups rather than one large one.
Often the problem is that a normal proportion of whatever — be it money, food, sweets, computer time, clothes — satisfies us, so we think that having more will bring even greater satisfaction. So, we go out to eat at the buffet, consuming enough to “get our money’s worth,” and then feel miserably stuffed for the next few hours…like the guy in the 1972 Alka-Seltzer ad: I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”
Maybe not in all cases, but in some instances the problem is actually rooted in greed, an attitude that affects not only ourselves, but others as well. Often, taking more than one’s share results in someone else not receiving their allotment. When the sign says, “Only Take One,” greed will rationalize that everyone else will follow that direction, so taking one extra will not hurt anyone.
The Bible’s instruction to be content with what we have is wise teaching. We live in a land of plenty, so self-discipline is essential in finding the truest satisfaction.
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.