When Honoring parents is difficult

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

My parents in 1980. I'm the baby.

 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." 

Ex. 20:12 (NIV)

I can't remember when I first heard this verse being quoted around me but I do remember when I saw it fleshed out.

I saw honor given to parents (and in-laws) during moments of conflict. I saw people respecting their elders while clearly understanding that things could have been easier. I learned by experience that the words of the Bible have more weight than personal preferences and even human reason. 

None of these instances involved crime, danger, or violence. I believe the law and officials in place should protect us from unlawful practices. 

I also believe that God has a lot of insight to give us when He requires (it is a commandment) that we would honor the people who gave us birth.

I believe in honor not only because of what I observed growing up in Brazil but mostly because of the conviction I feel to obey the words of the God of the Bible. 

The word of God is so compelling. The more I get to know His character, the more I find myself desiring to obey Him.

Obedience in this area, depending on your life circumstances, is neither convenient nor easy. 

It isn't convenient because most digital content, from birth to adulthood, is created to insight the dishonor of parents. It is as explicit as an entire book or as subtle as a light comment such as "When I have kids I will never..." The entire culture is practicing dishonor to parents. I see Christians joining this practice without thinking about what God requires of us. 

This isn't my first (or last) writing on the subject. The last thing I wrote about it, a good friend asked me to lunch. During our time together, she said, "I read your blog post about honor. Can you tell me this: how do I honor someone who repeatedly harmed me as a child?" 

I was honest with my friend and told her I do not know. I expressed how sorry I was for what was done to her. She didn't deserve that type of treatment. 

I didn't sugarcoat the fact that while I didn't have the answers there were wise people around who could help her get the Bible application she wanted. 

We spent a little time speaking about God's character. We also spent time brainstorming who would be a better person to guide my friend's search for demonstrating honor as God requires. 

I am proud of my friend for building a life that is wholesome, happy, and free. She was doing the work. She sought help in every area of her life. I admire people who get curious about what God requires. I admire people who ask, "given my set of circumstances, how can I obey you God?"

God is not unfamiliar with questions, fear, and even doubt. Take Gideon for example in Judges 6:13. God tells him to do something bold. His answer is, "pardon me, but I really don't see how this can happen." 

I see God's patience, kindness, and care for Gideon. I see God calming fears and encouraging faith, no matter how many times Gideon asked for a sign. 

It takes courage to honor parents, depending on what type of parents you had. I want to propose that we can ask God the question: "How so?" I want to guarantee that God will answer you. 

Venting on the internet is easy. For years, I've been concerned about this culture of using phone cameras to get a laugh out of people who can't defend themselves. 

I saw a group of teenagers entering a store. Holding up their cameras, they were acting like they were up to getting a viral video come what may. A few feet in front of them was an elderly man in his 80s. He was alone. He was dragging his feet behind his grocery cart with some difficulty. His underwear was showing. I ran next to the man and whispered, "Sir, your underwear is showing. You may want to fix your pants." He said thank you and he fixed his pants. The teens went to another area of the store.

It's easy to both record a video to make fun of someone. It's easy to laugh at it and share it with others. That's the world we live in. 

The God we serve has different standards. Do we even bother to think about matters of honor as we live our digital lives? I think we can and we should. 

It may be convenient to show dishonor but God's way is the way of wisdom. We can be wise and choose to honor. 

Honoring parents isn't easy. Take my friend for example. You mean someone harms me and then I have to turn around and show honor? Well, yes. 

Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:38-47 is a good place to start. He said, "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (v.44-45). 

While I hope most of my reader's parents are not their enemies, I won't make any assumptions about your past. I also will not tell you that Jesus didn't say what He did. He loved Judas. He prayed for Peter and He gave him another chance. Jesus demonstrated love towards enemies and friends who betrayed him. There was no disrespect towards parents displayed in the life of Jesus because He didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. 

Back at me and my ancestors. God didn't create perfect people. You can see it in the Bible and you can see it in your bloodline. I say this because I want to tell you about a chance I had to dishonor my parents in a professional setting. 

The icebreaker was meant to be an exercise of everyone in the room telling a story of how messed up their parents were. We were asked to find a way to display a flaw or something bad they did. 

I will be honest with you. I froze. The first person went. A few laughs were shared during the second person's story. My heart was sinking. When it was my turn, I said, "no, I won't share." 

The leader was furious. This is a calm and collected person. I know fury and anger and I'm not scared of them. The entire room was looking at me, wondering how I was going to react. 

Out of incredible peace, I said, "You know, the older I get, the more I understand my parents. When I became a mother, my level of understanding of my parents expanded. My brother recently went to Brazil. He came back with stories from my parents' childhood none of us knew. My level of empathy for my parents and the life they lived grew. I'm sorry but I will not dishonor my parents." 

I learned so much about what it means to follow God's word that day. I also learned that Christians worry about "big" sins while daily life reminds us that God cares about all sins, dishonor included. 

It is not easy to honor but it is always a choice. I want to choose the wise thing to do daily.

Internet trends of dishonoring parents may seem easy to join. I think people want to speak their truth (and they should) as well as have someone listen to their story (as they should). 

The problem with dishonoring parents on the internet (or during work meetings), is that our root problem is not necessarily fixed. 

Yes friend, I do understand and support your free speech and your freedom to engage in any form of digital expression. 

Here's what I want to know: are you still bound after that story disappears? Do you still carry the same pain you've been carrying for years? Are you still toying with unforgiveness? 

If the answer is yes, something has to change. I know some daughter-mother relationships are so complex that you think you may never have that honest conversation. I sense some of you tried to no avail. Others wish they could have conversations but that opportunity is forever gone. 

God knows. He was there. He is still there. Honor is His invention, requirement, and way. He can show you how to apply honor in your life. 

I hope my words caused you to think. Think about your place in a culture that is supposed to have disregard for everything your God is asking you to do. What He requires, if obeyed, carries a blessing. Honor your father and your mother is the first promise with a blessing. 

I want and very much need to be blessed. I want to use my brain in a culture that expects me not to. I want to use my mind to serve God. I want to be wise in the ways I express myself online. 

God is okay with me being raw and real. Just read the Psalms. He's okay with all of those. 

God is okay with our questions, fear, and brokenness. He is not okay with dishonor. 

I invite you to pray that we can bravely apply God's command to honor parents. God created your family line so He knows the ins and outs of everyone's personalities and proclivities. 

I invite you to trust a God who can transform your relationship with your parents as an adult. I know, you didn't see this coming did you? God can. All you need to do is agree to do things His way. 

LifenotesEncouragement said...

Cintia, I appreciate the wisdom you shared in this post. It is very easy to be dishonorable (I've been guilty at times) but I love the soundness of God's word and the weight you give this subject. I'll be reading your other thoughts on this topic.

Blessings to you.