I Don’t Have A Very Good Relationship With My Parents
How Can I Honor Them?
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I Don’t Have A Very Good Relationship With My Parents: How Can I Honor Them?
God our Father has placed the principle of honoring our parents within His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). So we know it’s a highly important matter to Him. Yet it's sometimes hard to be certain of exactly what is expected in fulfilling God’s Fifth Commandment.
Honoring parents under ideal circumstances
If one’s parents are among those who live according to the principles of godly living and we get along well with them, the idea of honor toward parents is more straightforward.
When we are young we should obey our parents and pay attention to their instruction. Later, when we are older, we leave and set up our own household. We then make our own choices and are responsible for those choices. When we marry and have children we then assume the role of parents ourselves. But that does not mean we have no further responsibilities toward our own parents.
Work to overcome the negative elements of your relationship with your parents and follow God’s command to honor your mother and father. You will be rewarded for it by God your true Father and creator.
If our parents become incapable of taking care of themselves through sickness, disability or the natural decline of old age, we should help and assist them.
Whether we are young or old we should never hit our parents in anger or frustration. We should not speak harshly to them. We should not speak about them to others in a manner that is hateful, dismissive or demeaning.
An affectionate, harmonious relationship with your parents certainly makes following God’s command to show honor to parents seem a lot more natural. However, following this command still requires self-control and sacrifice even when you both share the same faith towards God.
What about parents who make bad choices?
Lots of parents out there do not live godly lives. Even parents who try to live according to God’s way can make terrible mistakes. Some people’s parents are abusive, some are neglectful, some are addicts, selfish, foolish, lazy or unfair. Under such circumstances following God’s command to honor parents can seem strange and difficult to do.
God wants us to respect His authority
God’s command to honor our parents establishes a root concept of respect for and honor towards authority in what we say and do. All authority, whether in heaven or on earth, begins and ends with God. For now, we experience this authority as it has been delegated to others both spiritual and human.
The command for children to honor parents is established to begin teaching us this attitude from our earliest formative years. It is built around the most fundamental and universal of all human relationships: parent and child. In other areas of Scripture, God expands His expectations regarding our approach to authority. He desires that we also show respect for and show honor to human government, officials, kings, rulers, etc. God requires us to show respect for authority whether the person wielding it is righteous or not (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-19).
God’s program is that we learn to show honor toward fallible and flawed human authority. These situations can be difficult and trying. However our efforts show Him we can be trusted to respect God’s own righteous authority if and when we are granted eternal life within God’s own family. Challenging and questioning God’s authority disrupts peace and harmony and has no lasting place in eternity.
Showing honor and respect in difficult situations
A favorite example of showing honor for human authority that is not acting in an honorable manner is David’s dealings with Saul, the king of Israel. For no good reason, Saul declared David his enemy, called David an enemy of the state and tried repeatedly to kill David. Yet David continued to speak and act with honor and respect towards Saul because of Saul’s position as king of Israel. While he showed respect and honor toward Saul, David wisely kept away from the man and removed himself from harm and danger.
Honoring parents in difficult situations
Showing honor and respect does not demand that we subject our self to abuse, violence or harm. Like the practical example of David mentioned previously you may find that for various reasons you need to practice respect and honor toward your parents from a distance in order to protect yourself emotionally or physically.
As a young person still under your parents control your responsibility to obey your parents does not require you to do anything that is contrary to the express will of God. If you are ever compelled to do anything disobedient to God, the responsibility for such actions will be upon your parents, not you. Neither should you feel compelled to obey parental instructions that put you in danger or are exploitive. If you find a way of escape you should take it. But be careful you don’t use this as a clever argument to avoid legitimate requests made by parents.
Healing the breach through forgiveness
When you reach the point of adulthood and have established your own household you may find yourself still struggling with how to show respect and honor towards your parents. Emotional scars may run deep, bad parenting may have left you bitter, or deep divides in respective lifestyles may divide you. The only effective solution begins with forgiveness. Forgive your parents for whatever mistakes they have made. Let go of the condemnation you feel in your heart and mind and leave the matter with God.
Forgiveness does not mean you must agree with or approve of whatever your parents have done. Forgiveness means you are willing to put the past behind you and move on to a better future.
You may be able to repair a damaged relationship with your parents through gestures of kindness and a gentle humility. You may find that for your own well being you still need to keep some distance between you and your parents. Restoring an affectionate relationship with parents is a desirable goal but not necessarily the same as showing respect and honor.
You too can show honor to your parents by taking care of their needs if they become incapable of taking care of themselves through sickness, injury or old age.
You too also show respect and honor towards your parents by what you do not do. Do not treat your parents harshly. Do not speak of your parents, or speak to your parents, in a manner that is disrespectful, insulting, demeaning, dismissive or impolite. In this way, you will avoid showing contempt for the authority God has delegated to parents.
A commandment with a reward attached
Work to overcome the negative elements of your relationship with your parents and follow God’s command to honor your mother and father. You will be rewarded for it by God your true Father and creator (Ephesians 6:2). With this promise of reward, the Fifth Command is unique among the Ten Commandments God has given us to live by. Honor toward parents is a fundamental principle of God’s way of thought, which He wants you to learn and practice. Respect and honor toward parents lead to more harmonious relationships within human families, but most importantly it will lead to harmony within the eternal family of God.
If you want to learn more about how you can use all God’s Ten Commandments to live a fuller and more satisfying life, read our Bible study aid The Ten Commandments.
If you want biblical guidance on how to be a better parent yourself, take a look at Marriage and the Family: The Missing Dimension.