When That Little Thief Finally Leaves


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The metaphor is probably the most fertile power possessed by man.” —-Ortega E. Gassett

Here’s a metaphor: Imagine as a kid you started hanging out with neighborhood pals, one of whom was a lot of fun, very likeable and adventurous, but also a little bit of a petty thief. Over the years most of the other kids moved away, or went on other paths, but you and the petty thief continued to hang out. In fact, the thief moved in with you. Again, this was okay because he (she) was a lot of fun, likeable, adventurous, and a pal whenever you needed a pal. And relative to this pal’s petty thievery— well, you’re no prude, though you yourself don’t steal things. (You know stealing’s silly.)

So here it is, all these years later. The thief/kid is still living with you. In fact, you have breakfast together every morning. You work together. He (she) comes home with you at night. Goes on vacation with you. To family reunions and funerals. Goes out to eat with you, goes to the grocery store, and to the doctor’s office. This kid— no longer a kid— goes everywhere with you.

And you’ve long recognized and accepted that your thief friend is not opposed to stealing from you. Not stealing a lot, but a little, every day. Petty thievery. First, of course, your petty thief friend regularly filches a bit of your cash: sneaks in and takes three to five bucks off your dresser, every day, including Sundays! It used to be just a couple of bucks, but in the past couple of years, the daily filch has been steadily growing, (with no end in sight!)

And then he (she) occasionally steals a shirt or a blouse, or a pair of pants – accidentally burns holes in them, then quietly returns them to your closet. But you’re used to this— you know what the thief is up to. You’re used to it.

Lately, though, you’ve started to notice that the thief is getting worse, stealing not only money and clothes, but even more valuable things. You’ve noticed that the thief regularly nabs for himself (herself) little bits of your time. He (she) doesn’t nab a whole lot of your time all at once, but he (she) steals your time regularly, five minutes here, five minutes there, throughout the day, every day. Even when you’re with friends, or family, the thief often steals time away from them. Or when you’re working on a project, the thief comes in a steals some of your project time. Or your TV time. Your movie time. This thief just won’t let up!

And now lately, and worst of all, you’ve noticed that the thief is starting to steal little bits of your breath! Starting to steal the very air you breathe! Again, not a lot, all at once. But regularly. You’re noticing you don’t have as much air as you once did. And the thief doesn’t give it back! You’re starting to suspect that, as time goes by, your thief friend wouldn’t have any qualms whatsoever about stealing all of your air, until you didn’t have any left for yourself.

So enough’s enough. You’ve grown impatient with your old friend, this petty thief. She’s not that much fun any more. She’s actually an annoyance. And an expense. Increasingly irritating and obnoxiously invasive into your life. You’ve decided to throw the thief out.

People have sometimes asked me, “What am I going to do with myself, if I don’t smoke?”

The answer: What will you do, without that petty thief in your house?
Nothing different! You’re just going to live your regular daily life, but a lot more freely, more comfortably, without all the cost and inconvenience and hassle of that long-time roommate.

It’s not rocket science. You might miss that little thief for a bit. But that little thief won’t miss you! Enough’s enough.

It’s time to evict that childhood buddy, that thieving friend. Enough’s enough!

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