Pulling Your Weight
I'm the one that always does the work, while my younger sibling goofs off. But my parents don't seem to notice, and I'm tired of my brother getting away with everything and my parents not noticing what I'm doing for the family. I feel jealous of my brother. What can I do?
I know how you feel. It seems that whatever I do to make my parents proud of me, my younger brother is always trying to come up with something better to show them so he's the center of attention. As an older child, I tend to feel jealous and angry if I'm not seen or felt as valued as my younger brother.
Among all of the stories in the Bible, the one that helps me, the one I absolutely cherish, is Jesus' parable of the "Prodigal Son," probably because I identify with the older brother who is responsible and obedient. The story is that the younger brother tells his father, "Father, I want right now what's coming to me" (The Message, Luke 15:12). So the father gives him his portion, and the younger son packs his bags, goes away, wastes every last thing he has, and soon finds himself working for someone, slopping the pigs. He becomes so hungry that he looks at the pig slop, and it tempts him.
He thinks about how good he had it before, when he lived with his father. He finally decides to go back to his father and beg for forgiveness. As he reaches home, his father sees him and runs toward him, embracing him. The son starts his speech about all the sins he's committed against God and his father. But instead of acting out of anger, the father is compassionate and forgives him and plans a feast that night in honor of his son's return.
While this goes on, the older son asks one of the servants what's happening, and the servant tells him. The older son is furious and refuses to join the party. So the father goes out to meet him. The older brother finally tells his father, "Look how many years I've stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends?" (The Message, Luke 15:29).
I relate to this experience. I'm the one always cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, sometimes cooking and cleaning up my family's messes. My brother just fools around and lounges on the sofa watching me, never trying to lift a finger to help me. But what has helped me feel better is the father's answer: "Son, you don't understand. You're with me all the time and everything that is mine is yours" (The Message, Luke 15:31).
One day, my mother approached me and asked why I was so grumpy. I replied like the older brother, saying, "I'm the one doing all the work all the time, and you just let my brother go on doing one task even unfinished, while I have done everything else." She simply told me that what I had done had helped her a lot and that she would always be grateful that I was obedient and willing to do things. She said that my brother would just need some training and time. She was happy that I was the daughter she didn't have to worry about and could rely on.
To this day, I've still been learning slowly from all the stories about what to do next. I have grown to be a lot more patient with my brother, to stop comparing myself to him all the time, and to be content that I am able to please my parents in my own ways.
Sara Harned, age 14
The story of the Prodigal Son is inspiring in so many different ways. There's no need to feel jealous when we have all the approval we need from God, even though we may seek it from others. Unfortunately, we won't always get approval from our parents, friends, or teachers. We won't always be able to please them. And lots of people may overlook all the good things we do. But being jealous of the people who either are praised for what they do or don't get in trouble for what they don't do actually hurts us. It makes us angry, upset, and jealous – feelings that make us feel worse, not better.
Plus, Jesus tells us to work on ourselves first:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? …. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Matt 7:3, 5 KJV)
As there are probably a lot of things we have to work on ourselves (like getting rid of jealousy), we really shouldn't be worrying about what our siblings are doing right or wrong or how their actions are being perceived and received by our parents. We have too much good work to do in our own lives to be concerned with someone else's life.
The best recourse is to go back to what the father, who represents God, says: "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine" (Luke 15:31).