The Parable Of The Hollow Tree

a story about decisions

Doug Stewart

There was once a man who lived out in the country.

He was a self-sufficient, hard-working man who loved 4 things.

His God, his country, his family, and his land.

His God, because his parents believed and trusted God. They taught him to do the same.

His Country, because he was an American. What more is there to say?

His family, because he was married to his high school sweetheart, the love of his life, who had given him three beautiful girls.

And his land, because he had worked for it for more than 20 years. Blood, sweat, and tears, every day for two decades to afford a small 6-acre farm where he loved his wife and raised his girls.

The one thing that attracted him to this particular piece of land was a massive oak tree that sat right in the middle of the property. He couldn’t quite explain it but there was something about that Oak tree. Something strong. Something majestic.

He loved it so much that he built his home right under it. It gave shade in the summer and protected the roof from snow in the winter. There was a tire swing attached to one of the branches and a heart carved in the trunk. This tree was as much a part of the family as any of them.

One day, while the man was out chopping firewood, he noticed a squirrel run into a hole in the base of the tree. Not thinking much of it, he continued chopping. A few minutes later, he saw another squirrel running to the base of the tree. Then another. Then another. Curious, the man walked over to see what the squirrels are up to.

He walked over to the hole in the base of the tree and was surprised that he had never noticed it before. How could I not have seen a hole this size, he asks himself. He got down on his hands and knees it was able to stick his entire head in the hole. As he turned his head and looked up into the base of the tree, he realized the entire inside of the tree was completely hollow. The entire tree was dead.

The tree that had attracted him to the land, the tree that he had loved, was now a danger not only to him but also to his family, his home, into his future.

He started thinking about his options:

I could chop it down but the tree is so massive and so brittle it could easily fall on my house and I would lose everything I have. I don’t have the money to rebuild I don’t have the money to take that chance.

But if I don’t cut it, A storm may come in the night and the tree could fall my house and kill me, my wife, and my girls.

The man stood under the tree that he loved not knowing what he was going to do.

What he did know, was there was a decision to be made and he had to make it today.


Sometimes we have things in our lives that seem good, that we think protect us, we even choose them. Over time, we realize that they become hollow. Too often we hold on to things much longer than we need to. Things like hurt, pain, un-forgiveness, loss, and heartbreak. When we do, it gives us the sense that if we deal with it, we could lose something really important to us. But like the man, if we don’t deal with the things that cause us to be hollow, we run the risk of losing everything (and everyone) we love. It would take courage. It would be risky. It would be scary. But the man has to decide, he has to act, he has to get his family and his most valued possessions to a safe place and chop down that tree.

Chop down that tree.

Thanks for reading, more at

*All misspelling and grammatical errors compliments of dyslexia : — )

Doug Stewart

Written by

Dale Carnegie instructor | TEDx Presenter | Coach | Podcaster | Storyteller — Lives in Raleigh, North Carolina

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