html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Always did.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Always did.

I was a pretty good kid in high school. I got good grades and didn't fight with my parents and made it home by curfew. I was the older kid, and still remind people to bring sweaters in case it turns cold. In general, I still follow rules and expect to work within the system. People like me? HATE the story of the Prodigal Son.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:42 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...


("U" is for "uncharitable" ...)

It's not like he got off scot-free, though. He did do his time with the pigs.

Reminds me of a guy I knew in law school whose big schtick was how much he screwed up. Any addiction or bad behavior tendency a person could have, he claimed it for his past. This strategy allowed him to get props and sympathy for being an overcomer. Any time he faced criticism for current bad behavior, he just added it to the list of grandiose mea culpas. He was one of those people who work their AA meetings for contacts.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I have a hard time being uncharitable with real people, who are standing there, being human and fallible.

But I always thought that for someting that sets a precedent on such a scale, welcoming back the Prodigal stinted the efforts of the older, good kid. (My sister was also a good kid, but younger, so intrinsically not as good.)

2:15 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Yeah, it sort of seemed like the hidden message was that you do whatever it takes to bring people back into the fold -- sort of akin to the squeaky wheel getting the grease. I was the better-behaved older sister, too, so I know the feeling.

As an adult, I realize that the point is that there's enough love and salvation to go around, so giving to one person doesn't take away from others. Not always so with other resources.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Like fatted calves!! Which could run out!

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the other point is that YOU may be the prodigal son, no matter how well behaved you think you have been.

Nevertheless, as an older sibling, it does grate nonetheless. That Father, He's a softy. -K.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous teofilo said...

Hey, I was that kind of kid too. Luckily for me, there's no Prodigal Son parable in Judaism.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Foose said...

Kipling's Prodigal Son had a jaunty response to the disapproving elder brother:

"I never was very refined, you see,(And it weighs on my brother's mind, you see)
But there's no reproach among swine, d'you see,
For being a bit of a swine...
I'm leaving, Pater. Good-bye to you!
God bless you, Mater! I'll write to you!
I wouldn't be impolite to you,
But, Brother, you are a hound!"

6:41 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

I am the eldest, was/am a troublemaker, but I see it as doing my younger, better-behaved siblings a favor... I broke the parents in for them, now nothing they do provokes much of a reaction. :)

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you may be reading it wrong.

Here's the passage. Take a look at the last two verses. The elder son keeps the inheritance.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but sometimes the prodigal gets to take back the parents, and that's not so bad

7:50 PM  
Anonymous HC said...

I agree with the 7:40 anonymous. The prodigal son gets a great party to celebrate his return from the ranks of the presumed-dead; the dutiful son gets all the property.

All the property less the expenditures involved in one party, I suppose, but should that be enough to inspire HATE?

11:49 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

What inspired this post?

6:17 AM  
Anonymous W. Lotus said...

Amen! I feel like I got cheated out of a lot of fun and grace and other stuff by being so damn "good".

7:43 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Nothing recent inspired the post. I once mentioned how much I didn't like that story to another oldest child, who told me that he lost his faith in the literal truth of the Bible when he was taught that story in Sunday school.

Having no better post, I thought I would see if others agreed.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Dubin said...

I'm still confused though. Why hate the story? Hate it because the older kid is always bound by the system and the rules, and you resent that coincidence of birth order?

9:31 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Because younger irresponsible kids get away with everything, and parents still throw parties for them because they are so adorable, but who do you think they put for the executor for their estates and ask to write wills for them and be trustree and clean up after that big party? That's right. The older kid.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Yeh, but you love love love your sister and don't resent her at all, so are you talking about the wee ones? They're not old enough to be frivolous hedonists yet.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I do love love love* my sister. She is merely responding appropriately to the permissive approach that precedents like the Prodigal Son make acceptable. I would do the same thing too, but SOMEONE has to be responsible**.

*and have also noticed that I feel everything in threes this month. I'll go back and clean that up in February, when you guys won't remember my posts that clearly anyway.

**Kidding, y'all. My sister is amazingly responsible and graceful about it too. She just doesn't get asked to take on family stuff the same way, which she attributes to her smart choice of staying out of law school.

12:36 PM  
Blogger guy said...

As an older sibling who clearly is less responsible than my sister, I suggest a more nuanced reality. In the early years it is certainly true that the older sibling gets all the expectations. But if you're willing/able to avoid getting sucked into the downward (?), self-reinforcing spiral of responsibility being expected and taken, you can train your parents to expect less of you. They can then turn to younger siblings to take over this task, which maybe they will do better if they are so inclined. From this perspective older siblings will always be first, but not always last, to be lent on...

Oh, and on the Prodigal Son parable, it was one of the things I always loved about christianity, back in the days when I had Faith. It's a wonderful story of unconditional love and forgiveness that nonetheless involves (some) negative repercussions to one's actions.

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I think Megan and "hc" both miss the point. Yes, the eldest gets everything that the father has, but in terms of Christian theology, God does not play a zero-sum game- i.e. they will both get everything that the Father has, and that is what chaps the eldest's hide.

What Megan is missing is that if Christianity is for real, then certain things are true:
1) God is a joyous being
2) God wants us to be joyous too
3) The purpose of the commandments is to teach us to live like God (i.e. be joyous)

The problem is, most of us (and I do include myself in this) think of the commandments (or responsibilities of life) as dragging us down from having a good time. While fun times are important, I think what we'll really back with satisfaction on are the times that we helped people that needed it, and made a difference.

The eldest thought that he was missing out by not partying like his brother did. The Prodigal Son, if it teaches us anything, teaches us that he was only missing out on worthless friends and pain.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

By the way, my apologies if my last comment came off as sanctimonious. I didn't intend it to, but I realize it might have come off that way.

11:38 AM  

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