While traveling from Gulfport to New Orleans I found myself reflecting some more on the parable of the prodigal son. There are three main characters: a father, a younger son, and an older son. The father is an example to us of how the right attitude leads to Better Love, even Best Love. While both sons – not only the wayward and wasteful younger son, but the older son as well – are examples of what may be the most damaging thought process to love and all relationships. The most damaging thought process is for the top priority to be “ME.”
The younger son was not happy and wanted to enjoy life while he was young, to have a good time. He wanted to eat, drink, and be merry. It didn’t matter he was saying to his father that he basically wished him dead, he wanted to take possession of the results of his father’s lifetime of hard work, now. In his mind, it was all about ME. There’s a good chance that rather than really believing he would find true happiness by living it up, he was in actuality trying to escape his unhappiness.
Now the older son reacted with anger to his brother coming home and being accepted by his father with open arms. He compared the brother’s merry-making with his hard work, and as often happens when we compare ourselves to someone else, he envied his bother. Now it was the older bother’s turn to think all about ME. I never got a party for my friends; I never got to go out on a big drunk at dad’s expense. He was having a good time, while I did all the work here – mine and his.
I talked last week about how the father’s reaction of being filled with compassion was a result of his unconditional love and acceptance for both sons. The father’s love did not depend on the behavior or performance, or lack thereof, of either of the sons. The father wanted to be with both sons and have a quality relationship with both.
I could make a case that the father too was thinking of ME, at least to a degree. He did crave the presence of his sons, and he may have been reflecting on just how much time he had left in this world. Perhaps he had also re-evaluated what is really important. I’ve shared several times that I demonstrate (so do you) what and who is really important to me by what I spend my time and money on, and who I share my feelings and emotions with. But the father perhaps realizes that the wealth he has amassed in his lifetime of hard work is not the most important asset he possesses. Rather his capacity to demonstrate through actions that the love and relationship he can share with his sons shows he was thinking of THEM and WE and making THEM the priority.
The difference is that both sons managed to be overly focused on ME, at the expense of others, while the father focused on his sons and others. Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means to not be overly focused on ourselves, on ME. To focus on those we have relationships with and their needs, to train ourselves to react with compassion rather than anger (as I discussed last week with this same parable) – that is one of the keys to turn Good Love into Better Love. A little less ME and a little more YOU and WE – that’s what I need. What about you – feel free to share a thought or question below.