Monthly Archives: January 2021

Being Herod: Part 2

Months down the line, my young cousin unknowingly enrolled into the same university as my big sister. They bumped into each other one day as they were heading to their respective classes. Boy was she gobsmacked! They had not thought we could afford being in such a prestigious institution.

I suppose that’s why we are told to think the best of others. Clearly she went home and told her mother, who was not so pleased about it because she stopped making her routine calls in a futile attempt to figure out what we were up to.

Couple of years later, she called my sister one evening, asking for directions to our house because she and my cousin were ‘in the neighbourhood’, and wanted to say hi. Obviously we figured they had purposed to visit because our homes are numerous miles apart.

Given that they had not visited in close to five years, when they came they found we had done a couple of renovations, replaced most of the furniture. Unknown to her, my big sister had been doing some research job, which was bringing in some good money.

I don’t know what they expected to find…maybe they had thought we were living in deplorable conditions since they had not heard from us for a long time; and, members of my family are known to brag when they are making achievements in life…rubbing it in people’s faces.

They only stayed for twenty minutes tops, and each of those passing minutes was characterized by forced smiles, fake giggles…feigned pleasantries…but for the most part, it felt like we had just sat through an impromptu interview: what have you been doing? Are you guys dating? And judging by my aunt’s facial reactions, all our answers rubbed her off the wrong way…

We were not rude to them…nor were we snobbish or anything of the sort. However, it was unmistakably clear; all the raw disdain patent on her face. She had thought we were suffering, but to her utter dismay, we were actually doing alright. The one thing she had dreaded all through.

Since my aunt paid us that unannounced visit, she dropped her charade about loving us to bits and all. To her we were adversaries, who should be plunged into the chasm of desolation. All ties with us were unofficially severed, and it’s not until recently we bumped into her at my uncle’s wake. Even then, she was unable to mask her displeasure with us behind her characteristic ‘charming’ façade.

As usual, our conversation with her was more like an interrogation: whether we finished school; whether we found jobs; were we dating… To a third party, those questions might feel relatively harmless. Nonetheless, in this case, they are usually meant to gauge how my sisters and I are doing, and whether we are doing better than her children.

I can bet all my money she would sabotage us if she knew how. The way I see it, my aunt and people of her ilk are no different from the Biblical King Herod; people who use their power and influence to cripple others; people who would go to the ends of the earth to ensure others’ downfall.

As this year was starting, a recently ordained deacon in our church gave a beautiful homily. “In this new year, do not be someone’s Herod”, he said. “Do not do things or make omissions that will put others at a disadvantage. For instance, if you know someone who’s struggling with alcoholism, do not buy them alcohol, lest you’re faulted for derailing them. Build other people, inspire them”,

He went on to preach about the Magi. King Herod had instructed them to go back to him with news of the whereabouts of the new-born child once they saw him. No one would have guessed what his intentions were…but deep down he wanted to kill the baby, afraid he would dethrone him.

Our human nature predisposes us to the green-eyed monster; to envy. If we’re not too careful we get carried away and act on it, hurting the people we are envious of. We are called to be like the three Wise men. Once they saw the Star of Bethlehem, they did not go back the same way they had come. They used a different route. This is symbolic of people not sinning once they accept Jesus Christ.

Like the deacon preached, we should all aspire to build others, not destroy; our religious affiliations notwithstanding. If we are offering to assist others, let it be the type of help that arises from compassion; from empathy.

There is really no need of helping a hungry person with food, in the hope that the same food will kill them or incapacitate them. People can do without such kind of help. If the desire to help a person does not stem from love, do not do it.

Being Herod: Part 1

Sometimes we come across people who seem so kind and caring…they offer to help us out of whatever predicament we might be going through. However, unknown to us, their assistance/good deeds are nothing more than a ploy to set a greater stage for our downfall.

A story is told about a king, who sought to dim a newly born child’s dreams. He wanted to have the baby killed because he knew the baby was destined to become king; and that, made him pretty apprehensive. Kinda reminds me of some male animals, which kill young ones of their kind, as a way of taking out competition for the role of the pack/pride leader in future.

King Herod and the three Wise men

Personally, I have met such people who pretend to help someone out but it is never with good intentions. For instance, I have this aunt, who for the longest time, when my sisters and I were growing up seemed to have our best interests at heart. I remember this one time when we were struggling financially. My mom was unemployed and she offered to help her get a job.

Eventually she got her a temporary job at their office; one my mom would not have taken under normal circumstances, but which at the time felt better than staying home penniless, and at the mercy of my stingy dad. Needless to say, my mom was grateful for the job.

After high school, my big sister took a short business course in college, while waiting admission into university because at the time my dad said he did not have money to pay her tuition fees. My aunt was quick to jump to her rescue. She offered to find her a data collection job in one of those neighbourhoods where a caring parent would not let their daughter set foot in, for fear they could get mugged or raped…

My sister was so desperate to get a job, but after taking everything into consideration, we figured her going to collect research data in an unsafe neighbourhood was extremely risky, thus worse than her staying home. Subsequently, she turned down the job.

Over the years, my aunt tried getting us jobs, all of them relatively modest. We did not think much about it until much later when her own children, who are slightly younger than us, finished high school. Whether it was just their good luck or not, I cannot say for sure…but her connections got them very good jobs. When we realized she was deliberately trying to put us in a situation where we would not be more successful than her children, we started avoiding her.

Eager to keep tabs on us, she would call often to find out what we were doing…and we, having figured her out, would withhold all the pertinent information. However, as the saying goes, ‘A team is only as strong as its weakest link”, my dad, who tends to be a loose cannon when inebriated would call her, giving her every intricate detail about us. That is how, my aunt has managed to stay informed about us over the years.

We did not know what dad was doing behind our backs, until my aunt started calling, gloating about how privy she was to our personal affairs, courtesy of dad. Consequently, we started withholding personal information from him since we knew he would share it with anyone who asked. It is even worse that generally my sisters and I are very private people. We felt unsafe, knowing dad was our weakest link.

Like we had imagined, once we stopped briefing dad on our progress in school (we are not very tight with him therefore we don’t share much with him regarding our social lives), everyone was submerged in the dark, such that whoever wanted to know what we were doing would have to find out from us.

Still, we did not want to come off as unfriendly, so if my aunt invited us over to her place we would decline politely, citing financial hardship or any reason that would sound believable. The thought of our constant impecunious state seemed to bring her great comfort and as such, she wouldn’t insist. The less we had, the more she loved us…