The Parable of the 4 Sons (What we see depends on where we are standing)
There were 4 sons who lived on a farm with their dad. They each loved to play and could get quite rowdy at times. They loved adventure, climbing trees, and throwing rocks down by the creek. Sometimes they would get dirty and their clothing would demonstrate how elaborate their adventure was for the day.
They would come home at days with dirt filled grins. Their father was a firm believer in cleanliness. He would stop them at the door and demand they take off their mud marked shoes before entering the house.
The one son he would brush the dirt off his face, give him at atta boy for being his son, offer him extra soap and towels and send to the shower.
The second son he send to the shower with no praise, no affection, and no extra soap.
The third son he completely ignored. That son was accustombed to simply following his brothers and showering after them.
The fourth son he took out back and beat him, called him names, and then sent him to shower.
Over the years the boys noticed that their joy in play diminished. Two of the brothers (the ones mistreated) did not enjoy their adventures as much any more. The fourth son seemed stressed, depressed, and had been slipping at school. He eventually skipped out on play all together to go be alone. He knew his punishment for play would be severe. He would slip into the house unnoticed. He simply wanted to survive his childhood.
As time moved on the boys grew up and left home. The fourth son was eager to leave. His body and his heart still had scars from the abuse he suffered as a child. He found there were safe places out in the world, yet there was still trauma in his soul.
He met a young lady who was a writer at university. She explained to him that writing was therapeutic. She encouraged writing his story. The fourth son knew his story would paint his father in a bad light. He pondered for months what to do. He decided telling the truth was the way to go. He wrote his book A Fractured Lens and it became a national best seller.
His family became enraged! How could he do such a thing. His father worked so hard to provide for them!! His father was an upstanding Christian man!!! His other brothers had no complaints. He had to be making it up and just venegful and ungrateful. If his father did whip him, he must have deserved it. The town turned on the fourth son and told him to never return. The first and second son came to their father’s defense. They said their father was the kindest man they knew. They tried to find stories to discredit their brother. The third son remained quiet. While he did not know the benevolent father the other two sons knew, he also did not know the extreme abuse the fourth son knew. So, he slid into his corner to bypass any confrontation.
Fortunately for the fourth son one neighbor saw his brutal whippings. She would sneak out of her home to tend to him with first aid. She saw the rage, the anger, the pain the fourth son suffered. She stood as an ally for him. The fourth son still had marks on his body from the abuse.
Teachers in the town after reading the book felt great sorrow because they failed to see the writing on the wall. The fourth son lost interest in play, constantly looked down, came to school sometimes bruised/looking defeated, and never liked going home. They could not fathom just one of four being abused and the father was so charming with everyone else. They did nothing to help.
The father read the book, knew what he had done, yet wanted to have the story removed from every bookstore. He should be forgiven and not have his dirty laundry out there. He wanted stories told of how he treated his other sons, the ones he loved. He wanted his church attendance on record. He wanted to be painted as a hero.
The fourth son refused to remove his book from shelves. He received countless letters from people with similar experiences finding healing in the book. They were too afraid to tell their stories, yet the fourth son told his. He began to fight against abuse of children.
When asked if he regretted telling his story, he replied, “No. I suffered greatly as a child and bearing my untold story has caused greater suffering. I am healing. Others are healing too because they recognize they are not alone.”
My take/why I wrote this:
The moral of the story is people can live in the same house or the same country and have different experiences. It is challenging to see a different perspective. I meet people who cannot see nor refuse to listen to someone else’s experiences. Especially if those experiences paint their beloved ideals or a person/place they love in a bad light.
Our vantage point and experiences matter. The neighbor who helped the fourth son saw the violence, she had a different response/perspective. The first and second brothers did not see the violence and because they were treated far better they were upset for any complaints. The father knew he was abusive, yet wanted to hide his sins instead of confess them and address them. The fourth son carried the story, scars, and the trauma. The third son did not see the abuse, yet knew his father treated the first and second son better than him. He remained silent.
I meet with clients who have been severely abused by people others put on a pedestal. They go to church and abuse their family. They have great jobs and abuse their family. You cannot tell an abuser just by looking at them and looking at how often they go to church.
There are people in America who are treated differently based on whether they are poor or rich, black or white, belong to certain groups or not. When I meet with the homeless, they are treated FAR worse than other people.
Pointing out issues in an area also does not mean that all is bad. It means there can be improvement. The neighbor could have reported the abuse, the father got help, and the family healed. The father could have read the book, confessed his sins, and reconciled with his son. He refused due to pride. The third son could have stepped up to say, “I am not an eye witness for abuse, yet my dad did not treat me well either.”
It’s hard to walk in another person’s shoes. It’s an honor if God gives us the opportunity to do so.
Photo: bthornephotos (Flikr)