As I sit down to write the blog for this week, the election is heavy on my mind. On the receiving end of change, I am flooded with emotions.
I keep returning in my thoughts to author Henri J.M. Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. Inspiration for the book sprang from the feelings Nouwen experienced while studying Rembrandt’s painting of a scene from the parable. He saw parallels in his own life—the younger son’s departure and return, the father’s joyous restoration of his place, the elder son’s resentment and ultimately the father’s compassion.
Nouwen found each of these archetypes in himself and suggests they are in all of us, both male and female. The younger son’s need to prove to himself and others that he is worthy of love and acceptance—often searching where they cannot be found; the elder son’s resentment, absence of joy, and obsession about being loved, felt as: “when I hear others praised it is hard not to think of myself as less praiseworthy;” the father’s infinite compassion, unconditional love and everlasting forgiveness, all resonate within us.
As the author sees it, we must live these types to be complete, passing from one to the other; at times returning to experience again the psychology of the younger and elder sons as we grow. Many pass through all three stages, some more quickly than others. Some never complete the full journey.
It is, in Nouwen’s words, “through grief, forgiveness and generosity that we become the father.”
Certainly, for members of family businesses, it is by living this journey that we truly become leaders of ourselves, our families, and fathers of our family legacies.
If you would like to have a conversation about the journey of your family business contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To talk please call: 212-777-0083.