What do you do when you’re right and they’re wrong? How do you handle people who are making really bad choices or who treat you unfairly or unkindly? My most common response is a good dose of self-righteousness accompanied by withdrawal.  And in that moment, how I handle being right, makes me wrong. My response becomes my sin. 

One morning we arrived at the preschool to find a flood in the hallway. Some of the items in our supply closet were already wet, and we had to work fast to save what we could. When we’d emptied the closet, I ran upstairs to find the janitor…who was off that day. I asked the secretary to please get him on the phone, and she told me in no uncertain terms that she was busy and that I needed to take care of my own problems. My typical response to people in need is to jump right in and help them. But when I don’t receive that same response from them, I have a very low flashpoint for anger. Unfortunately, I also have the verbal ability to respond quickly, often without a filter. I did a very poor job of hiding my frustration with her, but basically held my tongue, and returned downstairs to finish the cleanup before the students and parents arrived. Later, when I encountered this secretary in the hallway, she told me she did not appreciate the tone I had used with her. My anger trumped my common sense, and I began my tirade with, “Who do you think you are to lecture me on civility?” All that followed was completely true, but not remotely kind. This woman who showed me no compassion, and she got none from me. Instead of showing her what compassion looks like, I became as mean as she was.  And in my anger, I sinned.

I can well imagine what the older brother of the prodigal son was thinking.  His immature little brother took advantage of their father and left him with all the work. While he’s off cavorting in the “far country”, the older brother is at home doing two sets of chores.  And then after months of watching his father mourn for that brother who rejected the family, now that brother has returned home.  He has wasted money and his life, and he wants back in to the family. Rather than punish the son who left and praise the son who stayed, the father throws a party to welcome this younger son back home. All of those angry, self-righteous thoughts were true.

The older son had done the right thing, but how he handled being right made him wrong.  Rather than welcome the brother and honor the father’s invitation, the older brother withholds his love and chooses to pout in the field because neither his brother nor his father behaved like he thought they should.

Neither son was motivated by love, but only the younger son repented. The older son chose self-righteousness, rather than mercy, and ended up alone – alienated from the family celebration.

What really good reasons have kept you pouting in the field, rather than enjoying the fellowship of others?  What have you missed while you were so right and they were so wrong?  What lesson has your judgmental attitude prevented you from learning? Teaching?  What changes do you insist others make before you are willing to love them? How it breaks the heart of our Father when we are so busy being “right” that we are “wrong”.  This parable should have been entitled “The Prodigal Sons”.