There’s a story in Debt: the First 5,000 Years about a father who keep a ledger of everything he ever spent on his son. When his son graduated and moved out his father gave the ledger to him.
Reading this, two thoughts hit me:
- That dad was dedicated. I have an app as still somehow manage to lose receipts.
- What was the dad’s goal? What did he want to communicate?
I assumed his dad was saying “You are valuable.” That probably says more about my parents and what they communicated to me than anything else. If my dad had done that he would have said something like, “This is the investment I made in you son. Seeing the man you are made it worth every penny.”
My point of view), at least the one I try to keep, is that if I can do anything it’s because someone invested in me. I keep Austin Kleon‘s blackout poetry as my lock screen as a reminder.
I’ll never know what the father in the story was saying. As the story unfolds, it was clear what the son heard.
The boy worked tirelessly and saved everyday. Although he hadn’t talked to his father since he moved out, one day he knocked on the front door of his childhood home. He opened the ledger, counted out every penny and walked away. The two never spoke again.
Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
The father of a righteous child has great joy;
a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful! – Proverbs 23,22-25
If I hadn’t had that story on my mind when I read Saying 17, this would be a very different blog. I’d have focused on
but, I guess I’ll save that for another day.
Benefit of the Doubt
I heard scorn and shame in the father’s words when I read Saying 17. Just reading one story from one book changed the way I saw this text. Just imagine if I’d lived as the son in the story had.
We’ve all interacted with toxic people somewhere. Don’t minimize that.
When Paul wrote to Titus, he had good advise
Part of cutting toxic people out means making room for a new story to be told. There are two way’s to read this text.