My least favorite excuse these days is the “slippery slope” argument. It goes something like, “If you bend or change your mind on this, then you’ll have to do the same for everything else. And then you’ll end up in chaos and destruction. Therefore it’s best to avoid the slippery slope.” In my mind is a particular context that I want to be sensitive to. It affects people I agree with, people I disagree with and I have friends on both sides. Still, I feel the need to call it out.
First, the slippery slope feels like a modern day boogieman for adults who, pardon my saying so, are afraid to change their minds. I’m struck by how unhelpful a Google search of “slippery slope” turns up. From my perspective, It’s a lot fear language preached from a loftier and often overly-conservative position.
I want stats and testimonials of this alleged “slippery slope” concept. I understand it’s a metaphor but given it’s ubiquitous nature, how many fall down on the slippery slope and how far do they slide? I need a testimony of someone saying, “I fell way down the slippery slope. One moment I ordered a double espresso, the next thing I knew I was hooked on all sorts of narcotics and lost it all.” or “One day I bought a Powerball ticket, the next thing I knew, I was a gambling fiend who filed for bankruptcy.” But even if I got that, I’d like think, “That ‘s not slippery slope, that’s foolishness.”
And does the slippery slope ever work in positive ways? “One day I went to the gym to jog on the treadmill, then before I knew it, I was on the cover of Men’s Health.” Watch out for that. But really, if the slippery slope argument can’t work both ways then let’s call it what it is – a fear tactic.
Second, life is lived on the slippery slope. In life, everything is connected to everything so one decision always affects another. Yet, most of us avoid catastrophic decision-making on a daily basis. I mean if everything is on the slippery slope, then you’re on that slope, there’s no way to avoid it.
The closet metaphor I can use for the allegory of the slippery slope is the actual experience of walking your icy driveway to get to your mailbox. You feel how slippery it is, you take it slow, maybe you bend your knees a little, maybe you move your weight to the front of your body, but most of us end get to the mailbox to get our bills, gym membership circulars, and credit card offers.
I wonder how many risk their lives getting their junk mail in the winter than risk making a decision that might actually lead to better a life for them and for those around them? That is scarier than the slippery slope monster we have.
It’s more often than I care to admit when I look back at a decision and realize I could have, should have done something different. Perhaps more thought could have gone into this. Or perhaps I over-thought it, over-complicated it, and/or over-whelmed the situation. How much thought is too much, too little? That’s a good question to think about. Still, this isn’t slippery slope, this is decision-making in life.
What I am not suggesting is that one should ever be cavalier or flippantly change one’s mind – That’s just foolish. What I do want to be clear about is the slippery slope argument is not a great reason to do or not to do something. Thus, self-awareness, reflection, some confidence, a bit of intellectual integrity and a spirit of prayer are among the keys to expose the adult boogieman and stop believing in the slippery slope monster.