How to Honor Your Parents
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."1
Another Daily Encounter reader asks: "I would like to know what it means to honor your mother and father? My mother and I don't have a mother-daughter relationship. I used to be so angry and bitter that I wouldn't allow anyone to get close to me because I kept getting hurt. I tried to discuss my feelings with my mother but she got so angry at me that she hung up the phone and wouldn't talk to me. I have been told that I am not honoring my mother. I would appreciate your advice on this matter."
Jane (not her real name) asks a valid question because, without doubt, there are numerous—perhaps mega thousands—of adult children who have an impaired relationship with a parent or their parents. Until these conflicts are resolved, these people are bound to have ongoing conflicts in all close relationships.
However, if you were abused either physically, sexually, emotionally and/or spiritually by a parent or both parents, how do you even respect, let alone honor them? It's a tough question.
First, I believe we honor our parents most by not allowing their mistreatment of us to stop or hinder our becoming all that God envisioned for us to be.
Second, it is critical that we don't remain bitter towards our parents, and that we forgive them, because failing to forgive any and all who have ever hurt us is self-destructive. It's "like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."
Third, before we can truly forgive anyone, it is essential that we resolve our hurt and anger towards them. Unresolved hurt and anger is what leaves us feeling bitter and resentful—and blocks forgiveness. For help to resolve these feelings read "Taming Your Anger" at: http://tinyurl.com/tame-anger.
Fourth, we also need to develop healthy boundaries so that we don't allow our parents (or anyone else) to continue to hurt us. Forgiving people doesn't mean that we have to like them or allow them to continue to mistreat us. Reconciliation should always be the aim but that is dependent on both parties. Forgiveness is only dependent on the one who has been hurt and thus is a choice. The Bible also instructs fathers [and mothers] not to provoke their children to anger or embitter them.2 So while parents are responsible for what they have done and do, we are responsible for how we respond to what others have done to us. True, we need to forgive abusive people, but we also need to let them know in a loving way that if they continue this kind of treatment of us, we will have to distance ourselves from them.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, if I have any impaired relationships, please help me to see and resolve what I may have contributed to these situations, and help me to forgive any and all who have ever hurt me so that I will be free from all bitterness and resentment. Furthermore, where I have hurt others, help me to be humble enough to admit it and ask for their forgiveness and do all in my power to reconcile with this person or these persons. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Exodus 20:12 (NIV).
2. See Colossians 3:21 (KJV and NIV).