January 15th, 2015
In PART I of the Prodigal Heir series, I highlighted the son’s response to his father after “blowing his inheritance.” He said, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”
HE TOOK PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS DECISIONS AND ACTIONS. All to often “prodigal heirs” spend more time and energy making excuses for their actions and not taking full responsibility for them.
In PART II of the Prodigal Heir series, I focused on the father’s uncommon response to his child after learning the son had blown his inheritance. The father in this parable sets an example for all of us parents to seriously consider … a posture of profound empathy, forgiveness, and love.
Before the son even returned home after blowing his inheritance the parable reads, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” However, his father’s response didn’t stop there.
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
For this article, I will focus on the older brother’s response to his father after welcoming his brother home with open loving arms. Instead of showing empathy, he said to his father in the Prodigal Son parable, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
The father replied, ” …you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Too often siblings only look through their ego-lens to determine what they perceive to be fair, and rarely step into the shoes of their parents (or siblings) to understand what it is like from the other family member’s perspective. In addition, their ego-lens limits their ability to experience empathy and joy for and with other family members. In worst-case scenarios, this lack of empathy and jealousy causes divisions in families. And in some cases, family members sue each other for what they perceive to be entitled to via their inheritance.
If family members have the goal of the entire family flourishing across the generations, then there is a lot we can learn from this Prodigal Heir series. How does your family conduct itself in terms of:
- Taking responsibility for one’s actions,
- Allowing others to learn from their mistakes,
- Forgiving others,
- Putting oneself in the shoes of other family members, and,
- Celebrating and having fun together.
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