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How to Honor Your Parents When They Aren't Always Honorable

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How to Honor Your Parents When They Aren't Always Honorable

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Once when I was 17, I came home after doing something that I knew would make my mom really mad: Earlier that day I had asked a friend of mine to pierce my eyebrow in a McDonald’s parking lot. Yeah, I know, pretty stupid—I’m embarrassed even admitting it. I wanted it so badly, though. I knew my mom wouldn’t go for it, but I did it anyway. When I came home, I tried to walk through the front door all cool and confident, but instead, I chickened out and tried to cover it with my left hand. It was like she knew immediately that I was trying to conceal something and asked me what I was hiding. I pulled my hand down slowly and turned bright red because I had been caught. It ended as badly as you might imagine.

For most of my teenage years, I was that girl who rebelled against my mom as often as I could. In my mind, she hurt me and messed up my life, so I did everything in my power to make sure she knew it. I didn’t care if I hurt her. But before I get too far, let me back up a few years, because our relationship wasn’t always that strained.

My dad died of lung cancer when I was 11, and it crushed our family. Unfortunately, over the next few years we spiraled into a deep pit of anger, loathing, bitterness and sadness towards one another. It was brutal.

We moved to a different state, which meant we left my childhood home, my friends and my school. The scariest, most pivotal part was when we left God’s Church. Time after time I felt let down by the choices my mom made for our family during those years, and the result was that I cared less and less about what she thought. More and more I just did whatever I wanted, even when she disapproved. To be frank, I disapproved of what she was doing.

By God’s mercy, He started working with me when I was a lonely, sad, angry 15-year-old grasping for help. I wanted to know what happened to my dad when he died. I wondered, Did he go to heaven or hell? I remembered the love my dad had for God’s truth and His Word. He loved God’s Church and had raised my brother and me in it. So I asked my mom to drop me off at a local UCG congregation. Eventually after a few months, she started attending church with me. Our relationship started to improve, but I was still disobeying and hurting her. I still didn’t find her worthy to be honored because I hated many of the choices she was making in her life and in our family life.

When I was 19 I moved away from home to attend Ambassador Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. When my classmates’ parents visited, I would see their relationships with their children—they were positive, loving and supportive. I started to crave that kind of relationship with my mom. I tried to reach out with love and respect, but when I felt she didn’t reciprocate, I felt rejected. I can remember crying on many occasions when she would promise to visit but didn’t. I never felt important to her and that made me feel worthless—but I persisted.

Instead of expecting her to visit me, I visited her. I called her often and talked to her about my life and asked her about hers, even when it pained me to hear about the choices she was making. I would try to tell her how she made me feel and how it hurt me. I worked on being honorable myself and persisted in reaching out to her, and slowly, interaction by interaction, we grew closer and closer.

Since then, my mom and I have talked about the sadness and bitterness we’ve cultivated toward one another. There have been many healing tears and hugs, and we both recognize our own mistakes. She forgives me, and I forgive her, and we’ve discovered how much we need each other. Most importantly, I’ve learned some great lessons in my life.

If you’ve had a hard road with your parents or feel like you could have a better relationship with them, here are three actions that can help you honor your parents when they might not be the most honorable.

1. Make a list of ways you can actively honor them

This is something I never thought to do, but it’s something that I feel would’ve helped me when I started actively trying to mend my relationship with my mom. Write down what you can start doing today—big or small. It can be things like telling them “I love you” more often or doing a chore they’re always nagging you to do without them asking. Pray about that list and ask God to give you a humble attitude to fulfill it. Always continue to add to that list.

2. Keep trying, even when it’s hard

Try to remember that our parents aren’t perfect. We think we understand that, but do we really? Have you had a parent abandon you? Abuse you? Continually make empty promises to you? Our parents are going through struggles and hardships, too—more so than we can ever imagine. Ephesians 4:2-3 says: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (New International Version). We have to remember that all we can do is give it to God by praying for that parent who may have hurt us (Luke 6:28). Finally, we have to try to make peace within ourselves by responding with love, compassion and mercy towards them—fighting the urge to give up on them.

3. Remember that when we honor our parents, God makes a promise to us

When we respect and show obedience to our parents, it pleases our God (Colossians 3:20), and He promises us something amazing: “Honor your father and your mother . . . so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land” (Deuteronomy 5:16, NIV). God’s Fifth Commandment involves a spirit of patience, kindness and mercy towards how we treat our parents. If we obey God and approach our relationship with our parents this way, as much as it is in our power, we will receive His incredible promise of blessings.

Today I feel like honoring my mom is easy. I call her any time I’m out driving around. Sometimes I’ll tell her, “I’ll let you go; I’m only 10 minutes from home.” But she always says, “No, I’ll get you home,” and stays on the line with me until I’m safe at home. That’s just one of the little ways she shows me love, and it means the world to me among all of the other ways she cares for me. Occasionally I’ll catch a glimpse of the scar from where my eyebrow piercing was, and it reminds me of just how far my mom and I have come. I wish I had started honoring her sooner, because it brings me so much joy. It comes naturally now, and I can feel the benefits of keeping the Fifth Commandment—the first commandment with promise.