Lean not on your own understanding

Originally Appeared in : 9814-7/5/18

Alex Trebek had barely gotten two Double Jeopardy clues out of his mouth before the hall door creaked open revealing a large pair of blue eyes and hints of yellow hair.


“What is it Jesse?” I asked, prompting our lanky yellow-haired hypochondriac/philosopher/scholar/biblical historian to droop his head and say, “Daddy, I sinned.”


“What on earth?” I said. “How did you sin?”


“I had a thought.”


“Well, what was your thought?” I said, honestly intrigued by what he might say next.


“It was that I...well…,” he said, pausing to spell the rest, “H-A-T-E...D-A-D-D-Y.”


“Why do you hate me?” I asked, more concerned than upset.


“I don’t know.”


“Where did that come from? It had to come from somewhere,” I continued, trying to get to the middle of his abhorrence of his dear-old dad. “Do you still feel this way?”


“No sir. It’s just that I know it’s a sin and I had to pray about it.”


“Yes. You shouldn’t hate. Hate is not good. Now, give me a hug and head on back to bed. No more hating, got it?”


“Yes sir.”


My assumption that Jesse’s contempt was misappropriated turned out to be short-lived. The following night, as I was tucking Jesse in bed, he said, “Daddy, I sinned again.”


“What is it this time?” I asked rhetorically.


“H-A-T-E,” he said.


“Again?” I asked. “Who this time?”


“M-O-M-M-Y,” he replied.


“No. We don’t hate our mommy. We love our mommy. Now you need to stop this. Good night,” I said, matter-of-factly. I left his room and came out to the sofa, shaking my head, which caught Magan’s attention.


“What’s wrong now?” she said.


“Nothing. Just Jesse,” I said, not wanting to reveal that the child who most resembled her actually was revulsed by her.


“What now?” she asked.


“He said, and I’m using his words, he ‘H-A-T-E M-O-M-M-Y.”


“Do what?” Magan said, her tone and volume twisting upward on the “what?”


Magan marched into Jesse’s room ready to resolve his alleged repulsions toward his parents, but it only got worse.


Twenty minutes after she and I had talked things over with Jesse, the hall door creaked open again to reveal those same large blue eyes and hints of yellow hair.


“What Jesse?” Magan said. 


“I did it again. I H-A-T-E N-A-N-N-I-E.”


This repeated in 10-minute intervals with Jesse appearing to say that he also had H-A-T-E for his uncle Josh and his aunt Jenni.


“Now Jesse, that’s about enough,” said Magan, her voice indicating that swift adjudication against family aversions was about to take place in the living room.


Before things got out of hand between my homogeneous pair, though, I decided to ask one more question that had eluded my mind over the past two days:


“Jesse, what does it mean to H-A-T-E?”


“It’s just that I read it in a book,” he said.




“Jesse, just because you read a word in a book doesn’t mean that’s what’s in your heart,” I said. “Hate is a bad feeling where you don’t like someone so much that you never want to be around them. Do you never want to be around me, mommy, Nannie, Uncle Josh or Aunt Jenni?”


“No sir.”


“Then you don’t hate us. Now head on back to bed. Good night. I love you.”


“I love you, too, daddy,” replied Jesse, cheeks turned upward toward a more cheerful pair of large blue eyes than we had seen in two nights.


Jesse had made a mistake we all fall prey to: He leaned on his own understanding. He had a Proverbs 3:5 moment that should resonate with all of us.


Information is more accessible today than at any other time in human history, but as Jesse proved, ignorance paired with information can have unexpectedly destructive effects. If, however, Jesse had heeded the words in 2 Peter 1:20 “that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation,” he would know it better to ask his daddy or mommy the real meaning of H-A-T-E.


We should all use that same logic when dealing with understanding God’s will in our own lives, by building strong relationships with our parish priests or sisters, and using them as the resource God had intended them to be.


In doing so, we can all get closer to the four-letter word God wants us all to feel towards him and towards everyone else: L-O-V-E.


Or, in Jesse’s case, an extended thumb, index and pinky finger followed by “te amo” every night since. (Maybe we should just pair reading comprehension with his sign language and Rosetta Stone studies to avoid any additional lessons on loathing loved ones)


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin

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