The Purple Cup

When I was growing up we had these plastic cups in different colors. One was purple. Two of my sisters would fight over who got to use it.

One day after yet another fight my father took a knife and cut the purple cup into pieces so no one could use it.

I suppose there are a few lessons here. One might be that we should learn to share a scarce resource because if we don’t we might lose it. Another might be to not fight over something that doesn’t have any real value. It’s fair to say that my sisters weren’t really fighting over a cup. They were fighting to see who would win.

I think that’s the real lesson: the missed opportunity to get my sisters to think about why they were fighting to begin with. Their competition didn’t end when the purple cup was gone. They just found something else to fight over. My parents removed their annoyance for an evening, but the next day it was back.

Addressing a symptom rather than a root cause is almost always a short-term fix. You might feel better for a little while, but chances are the real problem isn’t going to go away – and it might get worse.