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I could hear the yelling from my room. My oldest two children were playing Minecraft in the living room, and I had no doubt the yelling was related to the game. Sighing deeply and thinking to myself (not for the first time) that video games are more trouble than they’re worth, I went out to play referee. Turns out one of my boys had blown up his brother’s house and his stash of diamonds. Having never played the game myself, I didn’t know what the big deal was, but my son insisted he’d worked really hard to build his house and accumulate the diamonds. Then, just like that, it was gone, and he couldn’t get it back. One thoughtless (malicious, perhaps?) action had undone everything he’d worked so hard to build.

Once they’d both calmed down a bit, my sons and I had a good long talk. We talked about the addictive nature of technology, of course. We discussed how game developers use strategies to draw you in so you want to keep playing, and how it can come to feel like the games are reality. How else would you explain one brother screaming at another over digital diamonds?

Then it was time for apologies. The son who had blown up the house apologized to his brother, who in turn apologized for yelling at him. They forgave each other, but it was an uneasy truce at best. Neither could take back their words or actions, nor could they forget the words and actions of the other.

Suddenly, there it was—my light bulb moment. My sons had provided me with the perfect fable, told in a way that would resonate with them. So this fable is dedicated to modern-day kids (and adults!) everywhere.

Once upon a time there were two brothers. The older brother asked his younger brother to play a video game. This was a nice game, one that required a bit of creativity. The brothers could build things and be the architects of their own little worlds. They had fun playing this game together until something awful happened.

The younger brother took something from his older brother in the game, and the older brother responded by blowing up his brother’s house and the stash of diamonds he’d been collecting. It had taken the younger brother months to build his house and accumulate these diamonds, and he was dismayed when all his hard work was destroyed In an instant. He tried to restart the game without saving his progress, thinking perhaps he would be able to revert back to a previous time, but to no avail.

An apology was in order, and the older brother did tell his younger brother he was sorry. But no level of remorse could undo his actions. The house was still destroyed and the diamonds gone. The damage had been done.

Now it was the younger brother’s turn. He was broken-hearted that his work had been destroyed, and furious at his older brother for causing it. He started screaming at his brother, with ugly accusations and hurtful words coming out of his mouth. Eventually, after intervention from their mother and time apart to cool down, the younger brother was able to apologize to his older brother for the hateful things he’d said when he was angry. But no level of remorse could take back his words or cause his brother to forget them. The damage had been done.

The brothers now began the laborious task of rebuilding not only the house in the game, but also goodwill between the two of them. One careless action and a few careless words had caused hours of work to restore what had been lost.

Moral: Choose wisely your words and actions, for they cannot be undone.

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