Like me, many believers have spent years in performance, trying to earn the love God has freely given them. They have become like the older brother. Because this mindset is often learned in childhood, it can be difficult for us to identify what is really going on in our hearts.
Our actions look great, but beneath the surface, our wounds are festering.
I had to come to the end of myself before I was willing to really look deeply at why I was acting the way I was. Through my healing process, I discovered some of the predominate symptoms of the performance mindset. Recognizing them can help us avoid wandering from our Father’s heart.
When we are performance-oriented, we can also become easily offended by others. The older brother became angry when he discovered that his younger brother, who had not performed as well as he had, was the center of everyone’s attention. This triggered the deep longing for love in the older brother’s heart, and he became offended.
He was resentful and bitter because he had not been recognized and appreciated. He felt the father had been holding out on him. As the older brother demonstrates, people with the performance mindset depend heavily on affirmation for their self-worth and value. When they come across people who are enjoying favor apart from behaving well, they become offended and angry.
The older brother also accused his brother of behaving badly, and he even accused his father of inappropriately forgiving and rewarding the younger son. His thinking had become so self-
centered and strict that he seemed incapable of feeling compassion for his younger brother or relief that he was safely home.
Instead, he angrily accused him in an attempt to tear his brother down in the eyes of the father (and probably to make himself feel better). When the performance mindset dominates our thinking and relationship with God, our thoughts toward others often become poisoned.
Rules and accomplishments are the standards we use to measure others, leaving little room for forgiveness and grace. This is a depressing and lonely way to live. It causes broken relationships, ineffective ministry, and a deep sense of dissatisfaction. It also damages our relationship with our Heavenly Father—the very thing we thought we were strengthening through our obsession with performing for Him.
In the end, the older son’s pride kept him from experiencing his father’s love. He was so convinced that he was right in his offense that he could not see or receive the genuine love his father had for him. Jesus’ parable ends with a picture of the son choosing to be stubborn and unforgiving.
Nothing in the story suggests that the father got through to him; nothing indicates that his heart may have softened toward his brother. Instead, because of his offense, he refused to fellowship with the father, the younger brother, and the entire household. While everyone else celebrated, the older brother stayed outside. Even though he had a loving father, he chose to make himself an orphan in heart.
This is an excerpt from my new book Loved Like Jesus.
I wrote it because I want you to experience the deep love that your heavenly Father has for you. Living from this reality as a much loved son or daughter, you can rest in a confident connection with Him and experience abundant living and lasting freedom.
Order my book today for yourself and an extra copy for a friend, your pastor and/or your small group.
Be blessed, my friends.
Thanking Him for you,