Ep. 1 – The Little Prince: How to Love “The Least of These” (Even When That’s Yourself)

In today’s episode, learn about two characters in The Little Prince—the rose and the drunkard—and what they teach us about charity and self-compassion.

The next episode will introduce my book, The Holy Ghost from A to Z: What the Spirit Can Do for You. And you can get ready for the episode after that by reading The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy!

Outline

  • The Little Prince is a children’s book first published in 1943
  • Learning charity from the rose
    • The rose is purposely vain, foolish, and unlikeable (see Chapter 8)
    • Orange juice object lesson: we feel good when our emotional glass is full, and we feel lousy when our emotional glass is empty
    • Love people even (and especially) when their emotional glass is empty
    • My 3-year-old daughter surprisingly said that she loved me right after I had an angry outburst at her, which completely lifted my mood and made me want to be better
    • We can love the unlovable by (1) choosing to serve them despite their unkindness and (2) taking responsibility for them as our spiritual brother or sister
  • Learning self-compassion from the drunkard
    • The drunkard drinks in order to forget the shame of drinking (see Chapter 12)
    • This cycle of shame is one of Satan’s most-used tactics
    • Example of being addicted to a worldly TV show and choosing to keep watching in our to put off repentance
    • Brad Wilcox’s talk “Worthiness Is Not Flawlessness” (from 3:34 to 7:34) teaches us about overcoming shame
    • When you make a mistake, see yourself with compassionate curiosity and think about how to do better
    • You’re a sculptor, not a soldier: life isn’t about being perfect and avoiding all harm (soldier), it’s about gradually making a masterpiece out of our souls (sculptor)
    • Use the power of prayer to banish Satan and shame (like in Moses 1)
    • It’s only because of Jesus Christ and His Atonement that we can break free from the cycle of shame
  • Takeaways
    • 1. The next time you notice that you’re having a hard time loving somebody, imagine them as a nearly empty glass of orange juice. And even though your natural reaction would be to respond with unkindness or judgment, think of just one thing you can do or say to pour some love into their emotional glass. And then do it.
    • 2. The next time you notice that you’re having a hard time loving yourself, stop for a moment. Imagine yourself as a sculptor, and, with an attitude of compassionate curiosity, take note of what went wrong and why. Then say a prayer asking God for forgiveness and for grace, which is His enabling power.
  • Next book episode: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Transcript

In the New Testament, the Lord says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” But have you ever stopped to think who “the least of these” actually refers to? Keep listening to learn more about loving others, even when it’s hard, and about loving yourself, even when you make mistakes.

I’m Liz Kazandzhy, and you’re listening to the cozy little podcast “Latter-day Saint Book Nook,” where we talk about books from a gospel perspective. Whether fiction or nonfiction, religious or not, great books are like wells of wisdom just waiting to be drawn from, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So if you love books, and you love the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’re in the right place. Come and learn from the best books to help you live your best life!

Hi everybody! Welcome to the first official episode of Latter-day Saint Book Nook. If you listened to the intro last week, you should already have an idea of kind of what to expect, so let’s delve right in!

Today we’ll be talking about The Little Prince. And because this is a podcast, I actually had to learn how to pronounce the author’s name. I believe it’s “Awn-*twawn doh *sawnt-eg-ZHOOP-er-ee,” and I apologize to any native French speakers if I butchered that. But anyway, it’s a very famous children’s book published in 1943, and the average reader can get through it in about an hour and a half.

The reason I chose to start with this one is because The Little Prince has been my favorite book since I was a teenager. It’s one of those timeless books that you can keep rereading and always get something out of it. However, fair warning—this book is not for everyone. I once recommended it to a friend who thought it was like the weirdest book ever. She even left a review on Goodreads that said, “Recommended by a friend. Hope we’re still friends…” So just know that if you thought this book was awful, you’re not alone. But, of course there are also millions of people who do like it, so there’s that too.

Now, let’s talk about The Little Prince. There’s so much you can learn from this book, but today I’m going to be focusing on just two characters—the rose and the drunkard—and what they teach us about love.

So first, the rose. Besides the little prince and the narrator, I’d say that the rose plays the greatest role in the book, and the little prince’s journey is really about learning to love his rose. Now, for years and years, whenever I’ve read this book, I have always disliked the rose. And to explain why I find her so annoying, I want to read a little bit from the chapter where she’s introduced. This is chapter 8 by the way.

[2:59]

Chapter 8: The Rose

One morning, exactly at sunrise, [the rose] suddenly showed herself. …

She yawned and said: “Ah! I am scarcely awake. I beg that you will excuse me. My petals are still all disarranged…”

But the little prince could not restrain his admiration:

“Oh! How beautiful you are!”

“Am I not?” the flower responded, sweetly. “And I was born at the same moment as the sun…”

The little prince could guess easily enough that she was not any too modest—but how moving—and exciting—she was!

“I think it is time for breakfast,” she added an instant later. “If you would have the kindness to think of my needs—”

And the little prince, completely abashed, went to look for a sprinkling−can of fresh water. So, he tended the flower.

So, too, she began very quickly to torment him with her vanity—which was, if the truth be known, a little difficult to deal with. One day, for instance, when she was speaking of her four thorns, she said to the little prince:

“Let the tigers come with their claws!”

“There are no tigers on my planet,” the little prince objected. “And, anyway, tigers do not eat weeds.”

“I am not a weed,” the flower replied, sweetly.

“Please excuse me…”

“I am not at all afraid of tigers,” she went on, “but I have a horror of drafts. I suppose you wouldn’t have a screen for me?”

“A horror of drafts−− that is bad luck, for a plant,” remarked the little prince, and added to himself, “This flower is a very complex creature…”

“At night I want you to put me under a glass globe. It is very cold where you live. In the place I came from−−”

But she interrupted herself at that point. She had come in the form of a seed. She could not have known anything of any other worlds. Embarrassed over having let herself be caught on the verge of such a naïve untruth, she coughed two or three times, in order to put the little prince in the wrong.

“The screen?”

“I was just going to look for it when you spoke to me…”

Then she forced her cough a little more so that he should suffer from remorse just the same.

So the little prince … had soon come to doubt her. He had taken seriously words which were without importance, and it made him very unhappy.

So basically, the rose is vain, foolish, and generally unlikeable. And that bugged me for a long time. But eventually this light bulb kind of went on in my mind, and I realized that that’s exactly the point. Because loving the loveable is no great feat, but loving those who are awkward, irritable, or broken … now that is charity.

[5:42]

Orange Juice Object Lesson: “The Least of These”

Now, I want to stop here for a moment to tell you about an object lesson I recently heard in Primary. (And this was over Zoom by the way—gotta love the good old days of watching church remotely. Thanks, covid.)

Anyway, a woman was teaching, and she had a pitcher of orange juice and three cups. She poured a lot in one cup, a medium amount in another cup, and just a little bit in the last cup. She pointed to the first cup and said, “You see how this cup is full of juice? That’s kind of like when you’re feeling really good. Life is good, you’re happy, and you feel good about yourself.” Then she pointed to the third cup and said, “Now, this cup only has a little bit of juice. And that’s kind of like when you’re feeling a bit empty inside. When you’re upset or sad or mad, when you’re struggling, and when you just feel lousy.”

Then she asked, “Which of these cups has the most juice?” The cute little kids unmuted themselves and said the first one. And then she asked, “Which of these cups has the least juice?” And, of course, they said the third. Now, you can probably see where this is going—she brought up the scripture in Matthew 25 that says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Then she poured some more juice into the cup that had the least, and she talked about how we should try to help those who are having a hard time.

Now, I’ve been a member of the Church all my life, and that is the first time I have ever witnessed that object lesson, and it really touched me. Because I don’t know about you, but when somebody is feeling lousy—like that rude cashier at the store, or your kid screaming that they hate you—it’s like really hard to love them. And yet that’s exactly what the Lord invited us to do. In Matthew 5, He says:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; … For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans [do] the same?”

In other words, it’s not enough to love that glass of orange juice that’s already filled to the brim—you know, those kind, successful people that everybody loves to be around. You also need to love that nearly empty glass of orange juice—that whiny child who’s on their fifth tantrum of the day, that judgy mom who makes snide comments about your parenting choices, or that homeless man who may or may not use your donation to satisfy his drug addiction. Because people need loving the most when they deserve it the least.

[8:52]

A Lesson About Love from a 3-year-old

And let me just give you one example of a time when I was the one feeling lousy and didn’t really deserve love. It was late one evening a few months ago, and it was the kids’ bedtime, and—let’s be honest—that can be like one of the most stressful times of the day for a parent. Anyway, I was feeling a little sick, I was exhausted, and my little baby was super fussy. And then there were my two older girls, Katya and Sophia (who are 5 and 3), and they were supposed to be asleep in the next room. But that night, they were just being so bad, not staying in their beds, and making it impossible for me to get my baby to sleep and relax. And I just lost it. I completely lost my patience, yelled at them, forcefully put them back in bed, and stormed out, slamming the door behind me. (I know … horrible parenting moment right there.) But then, as I sat there fuming on the edge of my bed, I overheard them talking. Katya asked, “Hey Sophia, do you like Mama or Papa better?” And Sophia said, “I like Mama because she loves me.”

Well, that just melted my heart. Because I did not deserve that right then, literally seconds after my angry outburst. But you know what it did? It filled up my emotional glass. It helped me see myself as the loving parent that I’m striving to be, rather than that rage-filled parent that I just was. I was able to calm down, go back into their room, apologize, snuggle with them a little bit, and kiss them goodnight. And that little phrase from my 3-year-old was so much more powerful than if I had heard some variation of “I hate you! You’re the worst mom ever!” because that would’ve drained away what little emotional juice I had in my glass. And it just shows how quick kids are to forgive and to love, which is something I think we all can learn from.

[11:10]

Learning to Love Like God Does

When we love those who are hard to love, we are being like the Savior and like our Heavenly Father. Elder Uchtdorf put it this way: “We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.” Even, I might add, the rose.

So, back to the book. Throughout the story, the little prince comes to love his rose more and more. There’s this really touching moment when he comes to a garden of five thousand roses. And at first, he’s like, “What the heck? My rose said she’s the only rose in the universe, and here are five thousand of them!” Or, put a little bit more eloquently, he says, “I thought that I was rich, with a flower that was unique in all the world; and all I had was a common rose.”

But after his experience with the fox (which is actually my favorite part of the book), the little prince realizes just how precious his rose is. He goes back to that garden of roses and says this:

You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you…. [But]she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars…; because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

And that, in my opinion, is the key to loving the unlovable: service. When we look at others with compassion, and when we extend kindness and a helping hand even when they’re in their lowest moments, that can be life-changing! It’s true that we serve those who we love, but it’s also true that we learn to love those who we choose to serve.

I also love that last sentence, when the little prince says, “Because she is my rose.” He took responsibility for her. And it reminds me of the phrase Cain used in the Bible: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Every day, we have a chance to ask ourselves that question, and in every interaction with others, we have a chance to answer it. When you see someone as your spiritual brother, or your spiritual sister, and you see yourself as responsible to love and care for them as the Savior would, it is so much easier to have charity for them. And isn’t that exactly what the little prince felt toward his rose by the end of the book? “Charity suffereth long, and is kind … seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked … Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever. Charity never faileth.” (Moroni 7:45-47)

So, that is what I learned from the beautiful rose in The Little Prince.

Right now, we’re going to take a quick break, but when we come back, I’ll move on to what we can learn from the drunkard in the book.

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[15:54]

So far in today’s episode, we’ve talked about loving others when it’s hard. Now let’s see what The Little Prince can teach us about loving ourselves when it’s hard.

This next scene comes from chapter 12 in the book, which is actually pretty short. It talks about when the little prince meets a tippler, which is just another word for a drunkard or alcoholic. And even though it’s just one little chapter, I’ve thought about this scene so many times in my life. This is what it says:

[16:24]

Chapter 12: The Drunkard

The next planet was inhabited by a tippler. This was a very short visit, but it plunged the little prince into deep dejection.

“What are you doing there?” he said to the tippler, whom he found settled down in silence before a collection of empty bottles and also a collection of full bottles.

“I am drinking,” replied the tippler, with a lugubrious air.

“Why are you drinking?” demanded the little prince.

“So that I may forget,” replied the tippler.

“Forget what?” inquired the little prince, who already was sorry for him.

“Forget that I am ashamed,” the tippler confessed, hanging his head.

“Ashamed of what?” insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.

“Ashamed of drinking!” The tippler brought his speech to an end, and shut himself up in an impregnable silence.

And the little prince went away, puzzled.

[17:21]

The Cycle of Shame

This is the dreaded cycle of shame, which I feel is like one of Satan’s most-used tactics. You mess up, and you feel bad about messing up (which is actually a good thing), but the problem is that you feel so bad about messing up that you think you’re too far gone. So you stop trying to do what’s right, mess up some more, and the cycle keeps going.

Let me give you a real-life example of this. Several years ago, I got really hooked on a TV show. I was like addicted to it, but it was not a good show—we’re talking violence, profanity, sexual content, all of that. And I don’t even know why I started watching it, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. I just got sucked into it. But the problem was, I knew it was wrong for me to be watching it. It totally went against my standards, against God’s standards, and I knew it was driving the Spirit away from me. So here I was, like the drunkard, knowing that this wasn’t good for me, but I kept watching. I kept messing up.

Now, this was back in the olden days, when Netflix didn’t have its auto-play feature—you know, when you finish one episode and it automatically starts playing the next one. So at the end of each episode, I would be sitting there on my laptop, with my mouse hovering over the “play next episode” button. And I had a choice. I could turn it off and face the guilt of what I was doing, or I could just click the mouse and put that off for another 42 minutes. And that’s what I did, over and over again. And every time, I felt worse, making it even harder for me to stop. I was like the drunkard—sinning in order to forget the shame that I felt from sinning.

And you wanna know how I finally stopped? I left the country for an internship and I couldn’t access the show anymore. That’s how far gone I was—it took a trip halfway across the world for me to stop. But there’s a reason why I never went back to that show, even when I got back to the States. Because I had three months of spiritual growth feeling God’s love for me and learning about His grace.

Now, I want to stop here for a moment and play you a snippet of a recent general conference talk from Brad Wilcox, because it goes perfectly with this topic.

[19:40]

“Worthiness is Not Flawlessness” by Brad Wilcox

One young man I’ll call Damon wrote: “Growing up, I struggled with pornography. I always felt so ashamed that I could not get things right.” Each time Damon slipped, the pain of regret became so intense, he harshly judged himself to be unworthy of any kind of grace, forgiveness, or additional chances from God. He said: “I decided I just deserved to feel terrible all the time. I figured God probably hated me because I wasn’t willing to work harder and get on top of this once and for all. I would go a week and sometimes even a month, but then I would relapse and think, ‘I’ll never be good enough, so what’s the use of even trying?’”

At one such low moment, Damon said to his priesthood leader: “Maybe I should just stop coming to church. I’m sick of being a hypocrite.”

His leader responded: “You’re not a hypocrite because you have a bad habit you are trying to break. You are a hypocrite if you hide it, lie about it, or try to convince yourself the Church has the problem for maintaining such high standards. Being honest about your actions and taking steps to move forward is not being a hypocrite. It is being a disciple.” This leader quoted Elder Richard G. Scott, who taught: “The Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. … When the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.”

That perspective gave Damon hope. He realized God was not up there saying, “Damon blew it again.” Instead, He was probably saying, “Look how far Damon has come.” This young man finally stopped looking down in shame or looking sideways for excuses and rationalizations. He looked up for divine help, and he found it.

Damon said: “The only time I had turned to God in the past was to ask for forgiveness, but now I also asked for grace—His ‘enabling power’ [Bible Dictionary, “Grace”]. I had never done that before. These days I spend a lot less time hating myself for what I have done and a lot more time loving Jesus for what He has done.” …

Elder D. Todd Christofferson has counseled: “To deal with something [very] big, we may need to work at it in small, daily bites. … Incorporating new and wholesome habits into our character or overcoming bad habits or addictions [most] often means an effort today followed by another tomorrow and then another, perhaps for many days, even months and years. … But we can do it because we can appeal to God … for the help we need each day.”

I hope that that helps you as much as it’s helped me ever since I heard that talk.

[23:27]

Look at Yourself with Compassionate Curiosity

One thing that’s helped me to move forward in “small, daily bites” is to develop an attitude of compassionate curiosity. That means that when you mess up, you try to emotionally distance yourself from the scene, kind of like viewing it from above instead of from your normal perspective. And then you just ask yourself, kindly and with genuine curiosity, “Why did I do that?” And this isn’t the shame-driven question, “Why? Why on earth did I do that? Why am I like this?” Because remember—the key is compassionate curiosity. Instead, just try to calmly ask yourself, “Hmmm… why did I do that? And what can I do to be better next time?”

I think a lot of us go through life feeling like a soldier at war. We’re constantly being shot at with sins and temptations and our weaknesses, and when we get hit, we feel so wounded, and we feel like a failure. But here’s the thing: if you live like that, you are gonna begin every day with fear and end every day with disappointment. It’s a recipe for disaster, like a petri dish where shame can fester and grow and overtake you whenever you fall short.

Now, isn’t it a better metaphor to imagine yourself as an artist working on the sculpture of your soul? And not just a better metaphor but a more correct one. Because when you’re molding clay and you make a mistake, you just fix it. You add some clay, remove some, smooth it all out. And yeah, it takes a lot of work, but it’s doable. And it’s definitely a lot more enjoyable than dodging bullets all day.

God doesn’t expect you to be perfect—like a soldier who avoids all harm. He wants you to become perfected—like a slab of clay molded into a masterpiece over the course of an entire lifetime. Instead of fearing imperfection, learn to love improvement.

[25:46]

Use the Power of Prayer to Break the Cycle of Shame

The last thing I’ll mention that can help break the cycle of shame is the power of prayer. In Moses 1, when Satan came to Moses and was throwing a satanic fit, for lack of a better word, Moses told him three times to leave. He said, “Get thee hence, Satan,” and a couple verses later, “Depart hence, Satan.” But Satan didn’t leave. And then later, when Moses “saw the bitterness of hell,” he said, “Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.” But Satan didn’t leave. He just kept getting fiercer and more frightening.

And do you know what finally stopped him? Moses “called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.” It was prayer that banished Satan—a sincere prayer offered in the name of Jesus Christ. So, when you feel that shame creeping in—when you mess up, and you feel like a failure because of it—stop, drop, and pray. Repent of whatever it is that you did, ask God to help you be better, and especially ask Him to protect you from Satan and the shame that he is sure to throw at you.

Finally, going back to that drunkard in The Little Prince, did you notice what was around him? It says “a collection of empty bottles and also a collection of full bottles.” And the same is true about each of us. We’ve got this huge pile of sins we’ve committed, and we’ve got this huge pile of temptations waiting to bring us down even more. And if it weren’t for the Savior, we would be trapped on that planet of sin and shame. But we do have a Savior, and because of the Atonement, we can stand up and walk away. We can receive forgiveness for our past and hope for our future. We can stop the cycle of shame.

Well, I hope you enjoyed The Little Prince and that my little bit of commentary on the rose and the drunkard was helpful to you. As promised in the introduction last week, I will end every episode with a few takeaways to help you apply what I talked about. So here are this week’s takeaways.

[28:26]

Takeaways

Number one: The next time you notice that you’re having a hard time loving somebody, imagine them as a nearly empty glass of orange juice. And even though your natural reaction would be to respond with unkindness or judgment, think of just one thing you can do or say to pour some love into their emotional glass. And then do it.

Number two: The next time you notice that you’re having a hard time loving yourself, stop for a moment. Imagine yourself as a sculptor, and, with an attitude of compassionate curiosity, take note of what went wrong and why. Then say a prayer asking God for forgiveness and for grace, which is His enabling power.

That’s all for today! Tune in next week to hear a quick spiritual thought from my upcoming book The Holy Ghost from A to Z: What the Spirit Can Do For You. And after that, we’ll cover our second children’s book of the month, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, which is a beautiful book with beautiful messages in it. Have a great week!

Thanks for listening to Latter-day Saint Book Nook, hosted by Liz Kazandzhy! If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. You can also visit ldsbooknook.com to stay up to date with me and the podcast. Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you next time!


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