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"Chicken Fat": Exploring Black and White

People will praise the virtues of chicken fat in soups and stews, but I know better. 


In my book, chicken fat is both fowl and foul.


That fat shows up in my intestines the same way it coagulates in the pan or pot.  It hardens up in my arteries and roadblocks my blood flow. Processing chicken lard angers my liver and “galls” my gall bladder.  When my organs get irritated, so do I.


I don’t like fat at all...  It makes me ill to look at it, any kind of it.  The slimy texture and putrid taste, the bleached, sandy color, the way it hangs off the edge of the meat like an oily rag on a clothesline.  No, thank you.


Honestly, I can’t believe anybody eats something so gross and unhealthy. 


Can you tell that I’m emotionally reactive to chicken fat?  Where does the reaction come from?  Am I anxiously over-compensating for my overweight parents?  Does fat-free eating reveal my fear of mortality?


Who knows?  Perhaps my twitchiness reveals an unpleasant association with a human autopsy I viewed many years ago.  The fat deposits surrounding the organs of that particular corpse eerily resembled chicken fat.


People close to me claim a higher tolerance, and appreciation, for rendered poultry fat.  They invited me to become more informed and less jumpy.  So I looked into it more closely.


In my exploration, I discovered that chicken fat contains Vitamins C and E which reduce inflammation and help maintain elasticity and moisture of the skin and scalp. 


My lifelong assumption that chicken fat blocks my arteries was a partial truth – too much of any animal fat can do that.  But in moderate consumption, the polyunsaturated fat in chicken contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Those acids assist brain function and tissue growth.


Perhaps most importantly, the benefits and cautions surrounding chicken fat are not the same for all of us. Lots of factors need to be weighed: genetics, anxiety level, health history, lab results, and so on. What’s good for one might harm another.


In this case, seeking more information transformed a black-and-white issue into a host of more nuanced considerations.  I still don’t like chicken fat, but I’m a lot less sanctimonious in my declarations about it. 


Having taken a strong position against the skin of a bird, it’s a bit embarrassing for me to now acknowledge that for some, chicken fat might be lifesaving. 


What I’ve shared with you here is a lesson I am continually learning:  I concoct black-and-white judgments – and observe others doing this - not because the judgments are accurate, but because they offer two comforting untruths:


“There’s a correct way and an incorrect way to look at this.”


And, an all-time fallback:


“I am right, and others are wrong.” 


The regularity of my black-and-white beliefs led me to develop principles that protect me from straying too far into my anxious delusions. I’ve found that many of my fears, repulsions, and other overreactions recede when subjected to the daylight of clear thinking.

Here are six personal principles that function like smelling salts, awakening me from the cognitive slumber of black-and-white judgments, and ushering me back to reality:


1. The stronger the conviction, the more likely it’s an exaggeration.  Extreme positions almost always harbor a fool’s mantra: “I don’t need to investigate because I know I’m right.”

2. For a wise individual, decisions and beliefs are provisional, open to change based on new information.  Quick conclusions might be due to stubbornness or laziness. Almost always, they dance to the beat of anxiety.

3. I don’t know what’s best for others.  I barely know – and often have no clue – what is best for me.

4. Emotion carpets the pathway to thoughts and beliefs.  Unconscious emotional reactions often masquerade as moral positions or well thought out calculations.  Reactions usually lack self-awareness, wisdom, and depth. 


5. Personal experience is supposedly a gold standard for validity.  “If I experience it, it must be true.”  But humble inquiry will often lead us to question the reliability of our experience.  It might hold water, it might not.


6. Virtue can be discovered in all that is distasteful, and potential peril in whatever seems virtuous.   


The above principles provide a hedge against the automatic reactions and positions that flow from anxiety.

When my anxiety rises, I become blind to considering alternative points of view.  I begin wandering in the land of chicken fat, its subjective feelings, moods, memories, and interpretations leading me to premature, black-and-white conclusions.


How about you? 


What beliefs of yours do you hold with excessive certainty? 


Which emotionally neutral person in your life can you rely on to question your black-and-white thinking?


Where’s your chicken fat?



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