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Religion column — Secrets of the heart

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

It was a rainy day, so the twins were kept in the house. They had just reached their second birthday, and still relied on whoever was their “supervisor” for their entertainment and learning about the world; outside of their decidedly self-centered selves. Jaimie and Jimmy were passing the time with their Lego blocks, while older brother Ben watched the TV. Bethany, the over-stressed mother, was cleaning up the kitchen.

As toddlers are prone to do, they quickly tired of their play. It became, not of what they could build together, but who had the most blocks.

Gone were their interests in the common good; replaced with interests of their own. Each twin expressed their view with a frown.

Soon, a block sailed past Ben, striking him on the cheek. Now sitting upright, the 8-year-old yelled some frustrated epithet. Almost simultaneously, another block flew into the dog’s water dish. Each twin decided it was a perfect time to cry, scream and generally be miserable, as they had not received what they wanted. In spite of the efforts of others, and the more mature guidance they had received, these twins were committed to obtaining only one thing: what they wanted, when they wanted it.

The fertile ground, for such an approach to life, is found deep within the crevices of the hearts of most toddlers. It is impossible to rationalize cause, effect and consequences with a 2-year-old. Many an early parent will exhaust themselves trying to explain the rationalization of their parenting, with their children. Oceans of words, both verbal and written, have been expended in this pursuit.

In spite of our desire for it not too be so, we inevitably collapse into a pile of exhausted flesh. As parents, where once we may have called ourselves intelligent, we now blather on about how white the socks are, or the spilled gravy now blemishing our mother’s favorite chair. No matter what the age, or generation, we may be well assured of these past experiences, not only visiting us now, but we may be confident it shall be a part of the future.

Each of the twins had a secret place in their hearts. Even at the age of 2, it had developed enough to provide a sense of self and self-worth. Their small worlds, which were expanding at an enormous rate, was irregularly balanced by their limited knowledge of the external, and their need for self-gratification of the internal. Lacking an ability to understand compromise, they only viewed the world as a mechanism to provide for their needs.

These toddlers had reached into that secret place, and shown to all present their true feelings and natures. They had shown their desire to “come out on top,” and win, what more mature adults would say is, “a ridiculous argument.” We must note that this behavior is often seen in the thinly veiled behaviors of others, and ourselves, so well replicated in our later years.

Hidden deep within our hearts is the essential knowledge for good. It is also the repository of our darker natures. What we allow the wider world to see, may expose us to criticism, or disdain. Indeed, there is a “toddler” part of ourselves, which very much wants to “come out on top.” There are few among us who readily accept the “slings and arrows” of life; particularly with élan. Given enough blows, or immaturity, it is in our nature to retreat to the safe, “me” place.

Saint Paul, in writing to the Church in Corinth, relayed, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” In reading this passage, it may be inferred that the wonderment of childhood is of little value. This is not what Paul is telling us. Here, we find the reference is to our maturity and all of the experiences of life. It is here we are called to remove those infantile secrets in our hearts, which put ourselves, above others.