Christians everywhere are aware of the words of Ephesians 6:2 – “Honor your Father, and your Mother“.
For those of us with abusive parents, it is a very hard command to keep. It is one that brings much angst and guilt, tears and pain as we wrestle with our desire to please God. It is one that is fraught with confusion as we try to figure out how best to honor them, without harming ourselves.
After much tearful prayer, I came to the conclusion that just as there are different types of families, loving ones, and abusive ones, there are also different kinds of honoring.
When we honor abusive parents in a way that protects us and our own families, we are in fact still fulfilling the commandment, and need not feel guilt that we do not honor them through close contact – although that may be considered traditional in our society, or among members of our Christian congregation.
God blessed us with free will, and it was our parents choice to be either loving, or abusive. Just because they are someones parent, does not excuse them being evil or abusive towards their children and/or other people.
Which brings me to the big question. How do we honor abusive parents?
We honor them by not returning the abuse they gave to us.
We honor them by praying on their behalf for them to find the courage and knowledge to improve, change, and transform their own lives.
We honor them by not enabling their bad behavior, or allowing them to continue their abusive ways with us, or others under our protection.
We honor them by giving them clear boundaries and consequences if they are not remorseful, repentant, or willing to work towards ending their abusive ways.
We honor them by stopping the cycle, not allowing their abusive legacy to continue in how we treat our own children.
We honor them by being good people who bring honor to God and establish a good reputation for our own family.
Remember the sons of Kor’ah. Although their father, and his friends and their families died for their rebellion, the sons of Kor’ah were saved. Numbers 26:11 reminds us of this “However, the sons of Kor’ah did not die.”, some could have reasoned that they were not obeying their father when they refused to support him in his rebellion against Moses and Aaron, but instead they realized that their loyalty to God, and their love for others, was more important than loyalty to any human when they are behaving in a bad way.
So while we do our best to honor our parents, it does not always mean putting them first in our lives to the exclusion of our own mental and even physical health. We do what we can to take care of their physical and emotional needs, and we pray for their spiritual needs, but the time we spend with them may need to be limited for our own protection, and that of those we love.
When they made the choice to be an abusive person, they changed the way we need to take care of their needs.