If you google the subject of “difficult parent/grown child relationships” you will discover countless articles longing to give you an education on how to survive your relationship with your parents, all the mistakes your parents have made, what makes a toxic parent, why you are estranged from your parents, how parents push away their adult children, and how to deal with controlling parents. Over the years, in an attempt to be sure that I don’t drive my own children away, I have read, studied, and taken notes on these kinds of articles. I want to be sure that I don’t unknowingly drive my children to distance themselves from me.
We live in an age when we are more inclined to blame our parents than to honor them. Showing honor to the older generation is a rarity in a culture that strives to hold onto youth, points out when someone is “not aging well”, and does not encourage respect of elders if they don’t appear to “deserve” it. The consequence is that the older generation often feels that they cannot do right, that they have little worth or purpose, and that they are not needed.
Sadly, when researching the subject of difficult parent/grown child relationships, the idea of choosing to honor parents is not a popular concept. But the Word of God teaches what is unpopular.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
Why is it important that you choose to honor your parents, whether or not you think they are deserving?
- Choosing to honor your parents reflects a heart attitude – one of honor and reverence towards God.
- Choosing to honor your parents, regardless of whether or not they “deserve” it, requires that you live by faith: you must trust in God’s sovereign placement of them into your life, and in the truth that He has and is still using them to shape you into the person He wants you to be.
- Choosing to honor your parents helps you to turn your back on the “victim” mentality, and enables you to take responsibility for your personal choices (although there are real and unique difficulties that we face if we have experienced abuse or neglect in some way).
- Choosing to honor your parents sets an example for your own children of how they can honor you.
- Choosing to honor your parents helps you to grow and mature, as it requires you to take an objective look at them, acknowledge that they are fallen human beings, grieve over any mistakes or pain you find, but rejoice over the things they did right.
- Choosing to honor your parents shows your desire to honor God, because it demonstrates a choice to see them through eyes of grace, in the same way God sees you.
- Choosing to honor your parents should come with no strings attached. You should honor them because it is what God desires from you, not because you hope to get something in return or desire parental affirmation.
- Choosing to honor your parents can help to develop a more meaningful (not perfect!) relationship with your parents.
- Choosing to honor your parents requires you to understand them as human beings. It is easy to forget that they are shaped by years of difficult life experiences, and that down deep they are just like you – in need of love and affirmation. As you begin to acknowledge this connection, the childlike desire for them to meet your emotional need fades. You learn that they are imperfect people with their own needs; and, gradually, you desire to reach out to them. Your heart is enlarged to love as God loves you.
- Choosing to honor your parents by forgiving them for any hurt they have caused shows that God is giving you the heart and mind of Christ.
- Choosing to honor your parents is one way that you can thank them for their years of sacrifice and for the ways they have poured into you.
“You may have failed me, hurt me, and disappointed me at times, but I am taking off the judicial robe and releasing you from the courtroom of my mind. I choose to look at you with compassion, as people with needs, concerns, and scars of your own…God’s word holds unique, special and powerful experiences for those who will radically grab hold of it and see it through to the end.”
*A note to those who have been abused physically, emotionally, or sexually: The way in which God leads us to honor our parents is as individual as our experiences. The way I honor my parents may look differently than how He will lead you. It may primarily be a heart attitude that can’t be seen, but results in forgiveness and compassion. Take time to pray over your personal circumstances. Ask Him to show you how He desires you to honor them, as He helps you to work through the issues of your family background.