Should I Eat the Cookie? / by Michelle Cowan

On an online question and answer forum, where people pose questions to the entire web audience, I noticed that someone had asked (essentially), “Should I eat the cookie?”

The number and variety of responses alone was enlightening. It was like reading a transcript of all the voices that compete for my attention when I ask myself that very same question. Eating the cookie can become a debate by committee.

After reading most of the long list of answers, I mused at the number of people vying to offer the “right” answer, knowing that none of the responses would ever be the “right” one.  When the debate begins in my head, I’m often searching for that illusive “right” choice. I’ve been around long enough to know that such a thing does not exist.

The answer to “Should I eat the cookie” is completely irrelevant, because the question itself is the only wrong thing in this scenario.  Why is the question not: Am I hungry?  Do I want the cookie?  Can I afford the cookie?  Is the cookie fresh?

“Should I eat the cookie?” encompasses all of those questions, but it also masks all of them.  When “Should I eat the cookie?” is the question, eating the cookie becomes a test—something that will determine whether we or our decisions are good or bad. 

When we ask, “Should I eat the cookie?”, we bury all of the questions listed above under a moral debate.  However, I tend to think that we aren’t as concerned with burying those questions as the questions we’re more ashamed to ask, like:

Will others approve of me eating the cookie? Will this cookie lead to five more cookies?  Would a “healthy” person eat this cookie? Would a “good” person eat this cookie? Am I a good person?

Instead of hiding the questions you want to ask, siphon through the ones that come to mind. Ask the appropriate questions.  Ask the questions that matter, and don’t hide behind “shoulds.” Admit to the hidden questions and move past them to answer the most important ones: Am I hungry?  Do I want the cookie?

Eating or not eating a cookie does not determine your worth. If the decision of whether to eat it is not a simple one for you, use the choice as an opportunity to ask yourself, “What am I hungry for?  What do I really want?”  The answer often isn’t food…  even though sometimes it is ;)