On Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills

I’m assuming that everyone–everyone in America, anyhow–is familiar with the expression, “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” Meaning, “Don’t make little problems out to be bigger than they deserve to be.” Like Secretary of State Kerry recently saying not to worry about ISIS; air conditioners are more dangerous to our health.

Today, however, I’d like to offer an alternate meaning to that expression: “Don’t attempt to do something that’s more trouble than it’s worth.” Let me illustrate.

Did you ever see the movie, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain? I thought it was a great movie. Well, a very good one, anyhow. And the soundtrack was fantastic. But that opinion is irrelevant unless you enjoy movie music as much as I have for the last fifty years.

Anyhow, this movie is about a small village in Wales during one of the world wars. A couple of English surveyors came to gather data for an updated map. But they aroused the ire of the villagers when they announced that the local mountain the villagers were so proud of–it had special historical significance–was actually a number of feet too short to be considered a mountain. So it would have to be called a hill.

The surveyors refused to reconsider. Facts were facts.

In their determination to keep their mountain a mountain, the villagers disabled the surveyors’ vehicle to keep them in town a number of extra days. And they secretly worked together–men, women, and children–to dig up a huge amount of village dirt and carry it up the mountain, where they dumped it on top to make it tall enough to qualify as a mountain.

I’m not going to give a spoiler about how they finally reached their goal, but the surveyors repeated their test. Sure enough, that hill had become a legitimate mountain.

Their mountain was never a literal mole hill. But considering everything the villagers went through to protect its identity as a mountain, it might as well have been one. And how easily someone–or many someones–could have said, “It’s not worth the effort. Don’t try to make a mountain out of our mole hill.”

Excessive pride can be good or bad, but when it unites the members of a community the way it did those villagers, I have to commend it.

Maybe you’ve never heard anyone use my alternate meaning of “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” But I’d be willing to bet  you’ve encountered someone who tried to discourage you from doing something they didn’t think was worth the effort. Or perhaps they advised you not to even try because you didn’t have what it took to accomplish that goal.

My parents had seen me start and soon give up on a number of hobbies. Leather work was one of them. So they weren’t very encouraging when I bought my first real guitar–as real as $18 could buy during the early 1960s–in spite of the fact I had wanted to learn to play guitar since I was far too young to do it.

Although they would gladly have paid for piano lessons, the only way I could have guitar lessons was if I paid for them myself. I didn’t get much of an allowance and–after seven lessons–I decided I would do better learning on my own. That decision was probably the nail in the coffin as far as my parents were concerned, but as I kept at it and got increasingly better, they had to admit they’d been wrong.

I knew that mole hill was worth building into a mountain, and I’m thankful their discouragement only made me more determined.

What about you? Have you ever had to resist people who thought you wanted to do something that wasn’t worth the effort–or perhaps that you lacked the ability to do it? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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Best regards,

2 thoughts on “On Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills

  1. Very much so with my writing. Folks don’t particularly discourage me but I don’t believe they believe it’s possible for me to proceed. and then sometime I doubt myself too.


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