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Q: How do I honor my father and my mother if they’re controlling parents?
My parents constantly express disapproval no matter what I do, and who accuse me of hating them when I show them love. I’ve been showing my parents love for years, yet there’s a false peace between us. I’m the only Christian in my family, and because of this they accuse me of being in a cult. I’m constantly being hurt. How do I honor parents like these?
Asked by: Helen
A: First of all, Helen, my heart goes out to you. I know how difficult it must be when you live with disapproving parents.
So how does a child honor parents like these? No doubt I’d be helped answering your question if I knew how old you are, but I’ll go ahead and give some principles that might be of help, regardless of your age.
First of all, you have to look upon your parents with a generous amount of pity. The reason they express disapproval, no matter what you do, is because they are bound by their own anger issues, though they would deny it.
There is a story about a man who went in a bar. One of his friends played a trick on him and rubbed some rotting cheese into the man’s beard. As the drunk left the bar and walked out into the clear night air, he said, “The whole world stinks.” Your parents are bound by their own issues, theoretically unable to show love and compassion; nor do they wish to understand your faith but find it more convenient to simply say you belong to a cult. Pity them, for their souls are shriveled, not knowing how to deal with issues deep within their souls. Perhaps it is because of the way they were raised—having no basis for self-acceptance and hence the inability to affirm others, particularly you.
Jesus gives us insight about how to honor those who are in authority even if you don’t agree with them. In Matthew 23:3, He says this of the Pharisees: practice and do whatever they ask, but do not do what they do. In other words, Jesus said honor them for their position. Try to follow their instructions, but recognize that you can’t use them as an example—and that’s the way you need to be able to treat your parents. You need to try to honor them but at the same time know that they are not role models to be copied or admired.
Also, remember that Jesus made it very clear that it’s more important that you love Him than that you love your father and mother, and so when tough decisions come, you have to decide in Jesus’ favor. There comes a time when you can no longer obey your parents if, as an adult, you realize God is leading you in different direction. If Martin Luther had obeyed his parents he would not have begun the Protestant Reformation because they were opposed to his entering the monastery with the intention of becoming a priest. That decision, of course, set him on his spiritual journey which eventually led to leading the Reformation.
I don’t know how old you are, but of course there comes a time when you can leave your parents. It certainly would be important for you to do that so that you can put some space between yourself and them—we need to try to remove ourselves from toxic people. But having said that, while you’re with them, give them the honor that is due. Know that Jesus is watching, and your desire is to please Him. Keep praying for your parents because obviously they are in deep need.
And Helen, don’t forget you are the only witness your family has. For now, God has you where He wants you, be faithful there and God will bless you. Through the Holy Spirit, you have inner resources that can help you make it day by day.
- Matthew 23:3