The best lies of mice and men sway our emotions

Farm Forum

I married a critical thinker. Dennis can be brutally honest about a product or a person’s action while staying emotionally neutral. When training the kids in the field he gruffly insists they think through the outcome before actually driving the tractor or semi where it doesn’t make clear sense to drive it. He tells sales reps and customers exactly what he thinks about the machine being discussed—without any spun sugar.

I used to try to fix that.

Arguing about your emotions with a critical thinker doesn’t work. In time they will win you over with their logic.

I’d like to be a great critical thinker but I don’t want to offend people. In the end they are usually just mad that I wasn’t honest about my hesitations from the start.

It can even be dangerous to ignore our intuition. According to Gavin De Becker, author of “The Gift of Fear,” human intuition stems from the observations going on in our brains, and that ‘bad feeling’ we have is actually our brain alerting the rest of our body about danger.

Yet gut feelings aren’t foolproof. Things can still go wrong.

A local farmer once insisted that a gut feeling shouldn’t be used to market commodities. He said something like: “I’ve realized the only thing those gut feelings mean is that you have to go to the bathroom.”

If you want more to chew on than local farmer wisdom/humor: Robert Burns poem ‘To a Mouse’ has a famous line, often translated as: “The best laid plans of mice and men/often go awry.”

Even my cautious husband has made mistakes.

There will be trouble in this lifetime, according to Jesus. Yet the think and grow rich teachers and the positive self-help leaders tell us to declare positive statements and watch them come true.

I’m all for gratitude and thankfulness but I worry that critical thinking is being conditioned right out of us. “Look out it’s a trap!” is a pretty negative and unpopular statement. So even if we see the ploy coming, we want to believe that we can somehow get the cheese and also avoid the trap.

Besides, it would be rude to refuse the cheese.

Rat poison, by the way, is said to be 99 percent nutritious, which is why the rats eat it. The poison is a very small part of its overall composition. So small you’d have to be quite hypercritical to sniff it out.

I see a lot of emotionalism-covering-up-poison in our culture. Like the idea that we always need to be optimistic and make positive declarations. The problem with that: Banning negative statements also bans any accountability, it limits the chance for change and correction, and it numbs women to the attacker who knows he can play on her sympathy to lure her in.

Sway someone’s emotions and you gain control over them. Christians, women, children, and honest Midwesterners are often the targets. For obvious reasons. We are trusting and friendly, we wave at everyone we meet on the road.

But while I love how nice everyone is in my little community, I’m not buying all the things I once did and I hope they aren’t either.

Today there was a message on our answering machine about a security breach with a credit card from a store. It was a store from which I do not even have a credit card. I phoned the number and began to interrogate the person on the other end of the phone.

The man was not offended. He worked in the fraud department and he said I ought to be cautious about such messages. He asked me some key questions and then determined that the woman who phoned initially had made a mistake.

The exchange was telling. When people aren’t out to fool you they will not be offended when you question their motives or ask for more information. If someone is ever offended by simple questioning or a lack of immediate trust—run. Yet I didn’t let my guard down simply because he wasn’t offended by criticism. When the facts came to light, then my wariness disappeared.

In the last election my emotions were definitely swayed. I enjoyed singing along to the names of SD towns (entertainment). I heard that if I voted the wrong way I would ruin everything (fear). Vote right and fix everything (pride). It was an emotional ride.

I know in my brain—a brain that’s been sharpened by two decades alongside an unapologetic critical thinker— that I don’t have the kind of power to fix or break the whole country.

Rather, the most powerful thing I can do is state the truth and insist on hearing it. Anything more than that seems cheesy.

Andrea Beyers lives in Roscoe. Contact her at