By: Josiah Mohr

I’m sure we’ve all had the chance to practice the sage advice of the idiom, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” A required precursor to this approach to life is that you must be given lemons. It also implies that the lemons are unwanted, requiring a reinterpretation of a sour situation into one of sweet bliss. Now, I do not wish to provide a lecture on the complexity of exceptionally fruitful idioms, nor do I wish to discuss any applications for the acidities of this citrus plant. My purposes are much more grounded, because this idiom does describe some truth of reality.

When we find ourselves in sticky situations, we must do our best to make the most of those circumstances. Too often, though, we work to avoid circumstances that we believe could present too difficult of a challenge. It is this instinct that I would like us to evaluate, because as bad of a rap as lemons and difficult circumstances get, they certainly have the ability to add a great deal of flavor to our lives. I would, therefore, challenge us to consider the benefits of searching out lemony situations, even if only to add a little bit of that flavor and potentially to give us a new perspective on seemingly sour things. So let’s consider the question: How often do we go looking for lemons?
While considering such a cringe-worthy question, I would like us to consider another quite popular flavor that is present in many of our food choices. Chocolate may as well be declared a super food, useful in flavoring any number of dishes from drinks to pudding and cakes to fruits. With just the right amount, chocolate can quickly bring bliss to any situation. This bliss, however, can quickly become an unhealthy habit if we excessively feed our cravings for such a fine delicacy. Like the lemony situations we encounter in our lives, the bliss of chocolate can also be expressed in the idiom “Ignorance is bliss.” The assumption is that a lack of awareness is somehow the best way to keep yourself from experiencing the pain.
If you remain unaware of the difficulties of life, then you will only perceive the things with which you are comfortable. The delicacy of chocolate, in this sense, is certainly a therapeutic way to remain comfortable. However, this assumption has several detrimental implications. Like some circumstances in which we cope using chocolate, the idiom encourages the unhealthy practice of avoiding challenges in order to remain blissfully ignorant of the world and, therefore, happier.

Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of many potential opportunities for personal development. As with our allegorical use of chocolate, the concept of ignorance can certainly be healthy in moderation, especially when it motivates the pursuit of greater awareness. Left alone, however, this idiom is a fruitless, unhealthy, and rather distasteful interpretation of life, not all that different from the most concentrated forms of chocolate.
The dysfunctional relationship of lemon and chocolate flavoring also translates to the relationship of the reality of these two idioms. Just like chocolate, a taste of ignorance will very quickly inform us of when a sour challenge presents itself, but too much ignorance will overshadow and cause us to avoid such conflict. It is difficult to enjoy the flavor of lemonade if we constantly make an effort to avoid encountering lemons. Finding lemons in life will do so much more than simply add flavor. Lemons themselves are associated with a number of health benefits. In the same way, the challenges of life also provide more than just a change in routine. Successfully navigating a challenging situation can boost self-esteem, turn an enemy into a friend, or just provide a good story. Even an unsuccessful attempt offers opportunities for self-improvement or better reliance on teamwork. So again I would like to pose the idiomatic question, but with some revision: Do we go looking for lemons, or do we live in the comfort of blissful ignorance?

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