Responsibility

The first time I heard the story of the Prodigal Son I was in Sunday School. For a brief recap, after having blown his entire inheritance (which he had the nerve to ask for before his father’s death), the younger son returns home begging. His dad welcomes him home with open arms.

Prodigal Son

The dutiful older son, who had done everything right, was supposed to celebrate the return of his younger brother who had been off being irresponsible while he was toiling away. This older brother was, in my little kid (and my current) perspective, understandably pissed.

[Author’s Note: Perhaps some of my more astute readers were able to catch a slight bias that I allowed to slip in to that recap.]

The Sunday School teacher tried to explain to me that it was showing the need for forgiveness. While I wasn’t so bold as to ask then, what I thought REALLY loud was, “If you are doing what you are supposed to, you don’t need forgiveness!” Yes, I really was that much of a rule follower.

This was not the first time, nor the last, when I completely missed the point of the lesson. But hopefully it does show my underlying point: doing what is right is important to me.

Whenever I have been at job interviews, and they’ve asked for three words to describe myself, “responsible” is always one I give. I take great pride in that.

Despite all of this, though, I know that expending energy and putting in hard work, essentially being a responsible grown up, doesn’t always end up with the positive results we want. In trying to find employment during my first year in England, I submitted more than 200 resumes, received only five interviews, and ended up with no offers. That was devastating. I felt like a failure.

In that first year-long round, my skill set wasn’t ready. I wasn’t the candidate anyone wanted. Two important qualifications (my degree and my professional certification) were pending PLUS I needed Visa sponsorship. No matter how much I put myself out there and did all the right things, those were obstacles that would have been nearly impossible overcome.

Does that make me feel closer to the prodigal son? Heck no! He was irresponsible! I was simply fighting a losing uphill battle.

A very un-Tammy-like quotation helps me when life is seeming to be against me. It is from Babylon 5 (I am that big of a geek to have seen every episode!).

Marcus Cole

The character Marcus showed me a new way of looking at the world during these times:

I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t work my butt off for what I want. I now have a better strategy for coping with it when I get punished instead of rewarded for my efforts.

Was the Prodigal Son story upsetting to anyone else? or What word do you think best describes you?

8 thoughts on “Responsibility”

  1. I hear you on the prodigal son thing. I didn’t get too bent out of shape about it, but I could definitely see the unfairness of it all.
    I must say that I am starting to develop a very bad attitude, mostly because I’ve been interviewing for jobs well below my experience level. I remind myself of the cliché aging actress who thinks she is too good to audition and just expects to be given any part she wants. I’m feeling quite haughty. It’s just aggravating to have to take spelling tests and do panel interviews for jobs that are barely above minimum wage. Is that enough whining? I think so. 🙂 Perhaps I would use the word “entitled” to describe myself at this point.

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    1. Hi Katrina. I feel your pain about interviewing. With a high level of experience, you’d think lower positions would be a “give me”. I don’t think it’s necessarily entitlement so much as common sense!

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  2. Tammy, I love that quote and have never thought about the fairness or unfairness of the universe in those terms. He’s right. It’s a good thing it’s not fair or we could all probably imagine those proverbial stones being cast in our direction. I also have always really liked the story of the prodigal son – because, to me, the father represents a being that will just as openly welcome us back when we return from our selfishness or misuse of the resources and talents we’ve been given. I don’t think God will take any of us back begrudgingly. We are all loved. We are all loved in a family. And as parents, we know which children have been loyal and there for us and we know those who squander. I think I remember that father telling the older son, who rightly so, is bugged, not to worry, that all the father has is his. But you’d have to rejoice at one who was lost – physically, emotionally and spiritually – to have been found. If our family closes the door on us – where do we go?

    What a great, thought provoking post.

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    1. I really liked your perspective of the Prodigal Son. Having always been on the Miss Goody Two-Shoes, I couldn’t even imagine myself in the other role. You gave me a sneak peak behind the curtain of the title character and a great deal to think about. Thanks for that.

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  3. I have to give you a lot of coolness points for using a story from the bible and a quote from Babylon 5 in the same post. That’s awesome.

    Anyway, about the prodigal son. I’ve always liked that story. Not because I was a bad kid who didn’t do what he was told, but because I knew that I could be that person. We’re all human and we all have the potential to get out of life. People make mistakes. It’s good to know that when we do something bad that others will forgive us. That’s the lesson I took out of it at least.

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    1. Hi Steve,

      I’m glad you appreciated my diversity of sources!

      Your comment made the whole concept of the Prodigal Son click in my brain in a way that was probably not as intended at all, but that makes it make sense: It is a insurance policy for the soul. Should I do something absolutely horrible that I can’t forgive myself for, I would know that G-d could, at least from the Christian perspective. The Jewish G-d is not known for His forgiving qualities.

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  4. That is such a great quote, Tammy. I have always been hard on myself so I always saw the story of the prodigal son as a relief, that despite his sins he was still forgiven. And while I don’t welcome the hostility of the universe, I certainly understand why it is.

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    1. What an interesting take. I, too, have always been really hard on myself, but I never associated myself with the misbehaving son, so to me the story looked like the forgiveness wouldn’t be for me because I was actually trying to be good. Wow! My brain is (and always has been) quite warped.

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