In many ways, life is like The Parable of the Purple Pig. In this story, a man who owns a gas station in the Midwest comes across a garage sale in a nearby state, where they’re selling a sculpture of a pig. Nearly twice the size of a real one, the man thinks it would be a hilarious prank to buy it and put it in a friend’s pig farm. He loads it into his pickup truck.
But on the way home, he gets an even better idea. He’ll spray paint the whole thing purple and put it in front of his gas station. It will draw attention, maybe increase business.
So, he does this. Only people find it an eyesore. Opinion letters appear in the local paper. The local radio station bemoans his poor taste. Disgruntled drivers tell him to take it down. This offends him and he stubbornly vows to keep it up as long as he’s alive, by golly.
The ruckus finally dies down as people realize it’s simply going to stay there. Little kids dress up as a purple pig for Halloween. Locals give directions that include, “turn left at the purple pig,” and someone writes an article saying, “The one thing that sets this town apart is that crazy purple pig.”
Years go by. It gets stolen. Suddenly the community is up in arms, wanting the purple pig back. Law enforcement finds it and the pig is restored to the gas station. Now it’s a treasured landmark and the Chamber of Commerce dresses it up for each holiday. Tourists have their pictures taken beside it. A man proposes to his girlfriend by it.
Purple Pig T-shirts are sold, Purple Pig Realty pops up, and a grape-flavored milkshake called “The Purple Pig” is offered at a local drive-in. Suddenly the pig isn’t tacky or ridiculous but endearing and valuable. How did this happen?
Let’s turn to Alexander Pope’s classic “Essay on Man,” which says:
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
Now, the purple pig is not evil. But it shows how familiarity can change our perspective. We get used to the broken step, and only address it when guests are coming because now we look at it through “new eyes.”
When raising our children years ago, we bought a device that takes bad language out of TV shows and movies. Whenever we watched television, we were able to screen out those words.
And then I was at someone’s home and heard a swear word coming from a movie on their television. I almost gasped. I had become so accustomed to sanitized dialogue that it caught me off guard.
Then our device broke. We were appalled at the language so casually tossed about by characters. We shook our heads, disgusted. And then we sighed. And then we said nothing. Soon we grew accustomed to the occasional slang expression, the occasional inappropriate word. We had become desensitized.
Instead of turning it off, we decided to keep watching our favorite shows and movies, and just be aware of such words and not let them creep into our lives. Resist their influence. Remain incorruptible.
Ha! Right? This is like deciding to hang out with thieves (or hedonists or fill in the blank) and expecting not to be influenced by them. Someone else can’t tolerate it, but our standards will remain high. Good luck with that.
Most of us can connect the dots and see how a loved one lost their faith, became addicted, or landed in jail. It wasn’t a sudden occurrence, but a slow, step-by-step process.
Journalists don’t even try to sound impartial anymore. Vandalism and violence can rage in the streets with no consequences. Even blatant smash-and-grab theft goes unpunished. The internet is overflowing with vitriol. Many have cast morals to the wind.
When subbing in high school I asked a class if they believed there is a true right and wrong, or is it up to your own opinion? Every single student had bought into moral relativity.
Too often we decide to just get used to the purple pig. We go along with others, perhaps people we think may be smarter than we are. But in her great Conference talk, Careful versus Casual, Becky Craven said, “There is not a right way to do the wrong thing!”
The solution is not to be casual, not to cave in. When we know something is wrong, we must stop in our tracks and see the role of familiarity in our life. Is there incremental chipping away of our resolve? Keeping something destructive as a well-meant but misplaced effort to compromise or to fit into the crowd, will only diminish our integrity.
We’ll be accused of being old-fashioned or intolerant. Things we believe in– agency, in this case– will be turned against us, as if having standards means we want to control the world.
We need to realize that peer pressure never went away; it doubled down. The first step is to look at what you really do know to be true, and how you may have allowed some aspects of it to be sanded away, in order to fit in. We need courage to stand up to “the crowd,” which could be friends, coworkers, even family members. Fortunately, we have God on our side to help us overcome this pressure and remain true. When we enlist His help, we gain strength and confidence. We’re able to resist the pull of popularity. Yes, we still show love and charity, but we also know how to say no.
Let’s remember why we’re here in the first place. President Russel M. Nelson has stated, “You are a chosen generation foredetermined by God to do a remarkable work—to help prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of the Lord.”
As we stand for the gospel and God’s commandments, we attract like-minded friends. Together we strengthen one another to hold firm to the rod. As we rely upon the counsel of our Prophet and Apostles, we recognize wisdom and the rewards of obedience.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband has said, “I plead with you to set aside worldly influences and pressures and seek spirituality in your daily life.” Notice he didn’t say just in your life from time to time, but daily.
It takes resolve to push back against the tide of depravity Satan stirs up on a daily basis. But we can do it with the Lord’s help. And we can even show others the joy and peace life can actually offer, and perhaps inspire them to aim high as well.
Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.
Helen KlannJanuary 29, 2022
This story (or parable) is profound. I'm looking for a ceramic pig to paint purple and give to my grandchildren along with the story and your beautifully written article. Thank you so very much!!!! Such a timely piece.
Debrah RoundyJanuary 27, 2022