The story of the prodigal son is certainly a heartwarming one of a son determined to return to his family even if he only was allowed to be a slave, and about father that would have nothing less than his son fully restored as a family member. But what other scenarios could have played out in the son’s mind and heart? Consider:
After feeling profound remorse, a young man determinedly heads home. His family sorely missed him. But once he got there, he stayed outside. Food was given him and he was grateful. But despite all the encouragement to come into the home, he wouldn't.
The family wondered if the son just felt too unworthy. If so, they yearned to assure him as a repentant family member, they really want him back. Or maybe the dear son felt he has to be perfect before his Father could accept him. The Father himself certainly does not feel that way. (Isaiah 44:22; 48:18) Another feeling might be that he wants to work out issues before coming back. But how much better it would be to let the family encourage his progressive improvements. Remaining outside won't promote any good. The son remains cold; the parents don’t have their son truly back; the family continues to miss the young man. The only one that is happy about the situation is the crotchety old man down the street that hates all his neighbors and gleefully taunts the young man: “Go ahead you fool, stay out in the cold. I hope you die there!”
Then again, perhaps the son was worried he'd “blow it big time" again and that was something he didn't want to face. Not just because of his own emotions, but he really didn't want to disappoint the family. In that case, he just needs to recall that we all sin and fall short repeatedly. Prov. 24:16; Romans 3:23. Yes, it is embarrassing to fall, but it is the mark of an adult when we stand up again, accepting that we have fallen, learn from it, and move on.