Young People Ask . . .
“Honor Your Father and Your Mother”—But Why?
“YOU’RE so hardheaded that I can’t do anything with you,” said Veda’s exasperated father. “You give me no respect. You’re asking for trouble.” Veda was dating a boy who abused drugs and alcohol. She frequented discos till the early morning hours. Though her father strongly objected, Veda didn’t care.
“I felt that he was too strict,” explained Veda. “At that time I was 18 years old, and I thought I was grown and knew it all. I felt my father was mean and just didn’t want me to have a good time, so I went out and did what I wanted to do.”
Another youth, Gina, wrote: “My dad drank so much, and I couldn’t sleep because my parents would argue and shout a lot. I would lie on the bed and just cry. I could not tell them how I felt about it because my mom would probably hit me. The Bible says ‘honor thy father,’ but I can’t.”
Perhaps, like Veda and Gina, you find it hard to honor your parents. It may be that they are making what you feel are unreasonable demands or are setting a bad example in conduct. Yet, the Bible clearly commands: “Honor your father and your mother.” (Ephesians 6:2) Just what does this involve? And are there good reasons to do so, even when parents make honoring them difficult?
What Does “Honor” Mean?
“Honor” involves the recognition of duly constituted authority. For instance, Christians are commanded, “Have honor for the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) While you may not always agree with a national ruler, still his position or office is to be respected. In the family circle, God vested parents with certain authority as his representatives. Therefore, godly children should honor that authority. But children should show more than just formal respect.
The original Greek verb rendered as “honor” in the Bible basically means to consider someone as of great value. A parent should thus be viewed as precious, highly esteemed, and dear to you. This involves having warm, appreciative feelings for them. ‘But how can I feel that way when they give me such a hard time?’ you ask.
Why Should You Honor Your Parents?
For one thing, Proverbs 23:22 says: “Listen to your father who caused your birth, and do not despise your mother.” There are an estimated 55 million abortions worldwide each year. The mere fact that your parents allowed you to be born is one reason to honor them. Gregory, who at one time was very disrespectful, came to realize this. “I began to understand all my mother did for me,” he admits. “I thank Jehovah God that she didn’t abort me or dump me in a garbage can as a baby. She is a single parent, and there were six of us. I know it was tough on her.”
Rearing children, though, is not only “tough” but also expensive. A Canadian report revealed that the cost of rearing a child to the age of 18 by a two-parent family with only one child is at least $66,400! Think of your parents’ self-denial to provide your food and clothing. “One time all we had left to eat was a can of corn and some grits,” explained Gregory. “My mom fixed it for us kids, but she didn’t eat. I went to bed full, but I kept wondering why Mom didn’t eat. Now that I have my own family, I realize she was sacrificing for us. I wonder if I could give up food for my child. I don’t see how she did it.”
No doubt, your parents also spent many sleepless nights caring for you when you got sick. There were hundreds of diapers to change and loads of your dirty clothes to wash. Over 200,000 Americans were asked how many children they would have if they could do it again. ‘We would have the same number,’ stated 54 percent of the parents! Only 6 percent said, “None.”
So your parents gave you life and took care of you. Certainly they deserve your respect and honor.
What, though, if your parents set a bad example, perhaps being hot-tempered, drunkards, or immoral? Understandably, you may suffer as a result. How can you honor parents like that?*
As imperfect persons, your parents may have serious problems or personality flaws. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Yet, despite their shortcomings, God has given them a certain amount of control over your life. He still requires you to honor their authority. Remember, God said that due honor should be shown even to rulers. (Romans 13:7) This requires looking beyond their conduct and focusing on their office, or position. So rather than becoming disrespectful if you feel that a parent is misusing his authority, try to stay calm. (Compare Ecclesiastes 10:4.) Leave the matter in God’s hands, for “certainly the one that is doing wrong will receive back what he wrongly did, and there is no partiality.”—Colossians 3:25.
You must face up to the fact that as long as your parent is providing for you, he holds responsibility for the family. Ecclesiastes 8:3, 4 states: “For all that he [the one with authority] delights to do he will do, because the word of the king is the power of control.” To rebel puts you in a no-win situation.
How, though, do you avoid developing resentment? Try to understand why your parents act the way they do. Also, remind yourself of the benefits that they furnish. For instance, Dody, who had an insensitive mom and an alcoholic stepdad, wrote: “Perhaps my mom never showed us love because, as an abused child, she was never taught how. My stepfather showed an interest in our activities when he was sober, but that wasn’t very often. Yet, my sister and I always had a roof over our heads and food in the refrigerator.” Dody’s conscience is thus clear, knowing she did what she could to honor her parents.
Respecting someone does not necessarily mean that you agree with him. “Keep the very order of the king [or parent], and that out of regard for the oath of God,” advises Ecclesiastes 8:2. As long as the order does not violate God’s laws, show your love for God by honoring it. “Be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.”—Colossians 3:20.
Furthermore, even if a parent’s example is bad, do not conclude that everything he or she tells you is wrong. During the days of Jesus Christ, the religious leaders who had the authority to teach God’s Word became very corrupt. Yet, Jesus told the people: “All the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds.” (Matthew 23:1-3, 25, 26) By respecting the counsel given from God’s Word, the people would be blessed by God. This can also be the case with you by honoring godly advice from your parents.
‘What My Dad Said Was Right’
Eventually, Veda changed her attitude toward her parents. But she learned the hard way. While riding with her boyfriend, who was high on marijuana and beer, the car went out of control. It struck a lamppost at 60 miles per hour [97 km/hr], which wrecked the car and left Veda with a deep gash on her forehead. He fled the scene, never showing up at the hospital to help her.
“When my parents arrived at the hospital,” confessed Veda, “I told them that everything my dad had said was right and that I should have listened a long time ago.” From that point on, Veda was determined to honor her parents. “It wasn’t easy,” she admitted, “because I still desired to go to discos, and it would get pretty boring around the house. But I wanted to please God. I had made a big mistake, and it almost cost my life, so I prayed to Jehovah to help me change my attitude.”
Veda learned a vital lesson—respect proper authority. The failure to learn this has hindered many from succeeding in school, holding a job, or having a happy marriage. “Learning to respect my father, even when it wasn’t easy, definitely helped me to submit to my husband,” revealed Veda, now happily married. Yes, both pleasant relationships with others and a good conscience toward God are rewards from learning to honor your parents.
This article does not refer to utterly intolerable situations wherein a youth is subjected to physical or sexual abuse. In such instances, a child may need to seek help from professionals outside the home. See “Incest—The Hidden Crime” in our February 8, 1981, issue.
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Reflecting on all that your parents have done for you over the years should move you to honor them