"E sili atu le faatuatuaina nai lo le alofaina."
Okay, hold on, let me explain... :)
When I first came across the maxim, I had to stop and think for a minute. It’s one of those profundities that takes some thought and rumination for it to finally click, especially when it "challenges" the deeply-held, universal belief and truth about Love. We have been taught that Love - especially Compassion - is the inviolable epitome of human and Christian values. And so whenever something - albeit seemingly contradictory - breaches such core belief, a good and reasonable explanation is always a welcomed antidote.
It was the scriptures that presented an issue that led me to ponder the principle behind the maxim and then used it to shed light on some questions that I had.
Some time ago, I was teaching the Old Testament course in our Sunday School. The particular lesson was on Joseph who was sold into Egypt. And I was somewhat bothered by the fact that Jacob favored Joseph more than his other children; I was not however troubled by the fact that God, too, favored Joseph. I guess I was only ready to question someone with whom I can relate and identify as a mortal parent. As someone who believes in the scriptures’ role in teaching moral truths, the question I had was how a parent can favor, or love, one child over the others. And so I questioned Jacob’s parenting skills (haha).
The pattern - of a favored son/child - is common in the scriptures. For example, Abel, Isaac, Jacob and others. (And it’s not necessarily because of any divine "predestination", otherwise free will and agency will have been negated.) Nephi (of the Book of Mormon) was/is also a favored child - of his parents and God. Generally, whenever a "favored" status is assigned by a parent to a child, we immediately equate that exclusively with "love" which, in turn, essentially means that the parents love their children unequally - which is wrong! So in trying to settle the issue, I asked myself "How can a parent explain the "favored status" without divvying up his/her love among the children?" (Yes, like the Samoan faitama faapito concept.)
Interestingly, it took the scriptures to provoke and stimulate the issue, but it also took the scriptures to broaden my understanding and perspective on the adage and the principle behind it.
The whole enigma has to do more with TRUST than LOVE.
Basically, parents love their children equally, but trust them differently. Trust therefore is an added bestowment, and needs to be earned. Let’s consider God, the ideal parent. Here’s a familiar scripture - often quoted out of context by many by not including the conditionality of verse 35.
"...God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10:34-35)
If I may, let me rephrase that in support of the subtle - yet profound - difference between Trust and Love.
"...God loves all persons, but in every nation he that is obedient and righteous, is trusted by Him."
That’s the same concept at home. As parents, we love all our children the same but when it comes to trusting them, then they are at different levels. For the latter, it’s regrettable and sad but true. Good parents always "favor" - based wholly on TRUST - the ones who are good, obedient and more diligent in keeping God's commandments.
I’m sure Jacob loved all his children the same but he favored Joseph - as we all know - because he was a good, faithful, obedient, honest, righteous and loving son/child. In other words he was more trustworthy.
"You can be trusted and therefore loved - at the same time - but you can be loved and may not necessarily be trusted."