“It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”- Luke 15:32
The Prodigal Son and Innate Self-Worth
The story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible (Luke 15:11-32) teaches the principle of innate worth beautifully. If you’re not familiar with the story, I invite you to read it. In this story, Jesus teaches about the nature of God and how He sees us, His children. When the younger brother leaves home and wastes his inheritance on riotous living and finds himself in a very low place, he finally comes to humble himself and return to his father asking to be a servant. He believes and states to his father that he is “not worthy” to be called his son anymore. He believes this because he believes that his worth can be unearned through bad choices. But instead of being angry or judgmental, the father, filled with joy, runs to embrace the prodigal son and celebrates his return.
The older son, who stayed and remained obedient and faithful to the father this whole time learns of the return of his younger brother and his father’s joyful and celebratory response and he becomes angry and resentful. Why? Because he also believes that worth is earned through right actions and lost through wrong actions. He sees himself as superior and his younger brother as inferior based on choices made.
The father teaches them both an important lesson– that their worth to him is innate and cannot be earned or unearned, it can only be realized or not realized. This is true for you as well.[bctt tweet=”Your true self-worth cannot be earned or unearned; it can only be realized or not realized.”]
This beautiful story is meant to teach us something vitally important about our relationship to God. The loving father represents God and the two brothers represent two aspects of the nature of our human personalities (or human nature). The younger brother represents the part of our personality that likes to beat itself up and the older brother represents the part of our personality that likes to build itself up (usually in comparison to others). Both of those responses are unproductive responses based on the false belief that our self-worth has to be earned or can be unearned.
We’re Not Yet Capable Of Perceiving Our True Worth
The truth is we are not currently capable of even perceiving our true worth in God’s eyes, so it is best to just trust that your true worth is immeasurable and unfathomable and there isn’t anything you can do to increase it or decrease it. Your true self-worth is innate, untouchable and unchangeable. It isn’t earned through your actions and it cannot be un-earned through your actions either.
This principle of innate self-worth is a really hard one to accept because we have been conditioned to believe that mistakes and not living up to our potential makes us unworthy. Unworthy of what? The love of God? Really? Why is the thought of unworthiness so unchallenged? Why not have the same amount of certainty in your innate worthiness?
Actions Have Consequences But Cannot Impact Your True Worth
Of course our actions have unavoidable consequences and I am not making the case that you are not responsible for your choices or that you shouldn’t feel bad when you make bad decisions. It’s just the opposite actually. You are responsible for your actions in the sense that you get to experience the consequences, and you should feel bad when you make bad decisions so you can learn to make better ones.
What I am suggesting is that while you will experience consequences of your actions, none of them have the power to raise or lower your innate self-worth. Just accept this on a trust basis so you can recapture attention you have been wasting on beating yourself up or trying to inflate yourself. Both are a waste of your precious attention. Focus your recaptured attention on learning from the consequences of your choices and making better ones going forward.[bctt tweet=”Consequences are teachers of the wisdom of your choices, not judges of your worth.”]
Questions to Ponder:
– In what ways have I believed I have earned or increased my worth?
– In what ways have I believed I have un-earned or decreased my worth?
– Can I accept and trust that my true worth is innate and infinite and way beyond my current ability to perceive so that I can stop wasting energy and attention on trying to build it up or tear it down and instead use that energy and attention to learn from my current situation and get smarter about my choices going forward?