Young People Ask . . .
How Can I ‘Honor My Father and My Mother’?
‘NAME one thing that you do that hurts your relationship with your parents.’ This question was asked of 160 youths. Nearly 43 percent of the boys indicated it was by “failing to treat [the parent] with respect.” Of the girls, 42 percent said that they ‘ignored their father,’ and 63 percent said that they ‘talked back’ to their mother or in other ways were insubordinate and verbally abusive. Yet, many of these youths admitted that they felt a duty to make their parents ‘feel good’ and to be cooperative. But despite good intentions, they often failed.
Though you may really desire to follow the Bible’s command to honor your parents, you know there are times when you don’t. How can you avoid the pitfalls?—Ephesians 6:2.
The Right Attitude
There are two ways that you can view your parents. Proverbs 30:17 speaks of “the eye that holds a father in derision and that despises obedience to a mother.” On the other hand, Proverbs 17:6 states, “The beauty of sons is their fathers.” So you can view your parent as someone to scorn and mock or as someone to be proud of, your glory, as it were. The view you adopt will determine whether you give that one respect or not.
“But how can one feel respect when one’s parents are not respectable,” wrote a youth named Louise. The answer is to search for their good qualities, appreciate these, and focus on them. Researchers Nick Stinnett and John DeFrain found that showing appreciation for family members was one of the major qualities of a strong family. “One reason we have problems expressing appreciation is that we haven’t learned to be good miners,” they explained in their book Secrets of Strong Families. “South African diamond miners spend their working lives sifting through thousands of tons of rock and dirt looking for a few tiny diamonds. Too often we tend to do just the opposite. We sift through the diamonds, eagerly searching for dirt. Our strong families are diamond experts.”
Every person has good qualities and accomplishments. If you look for the good, you’ll find it. By ‘finding the diamonds,’ you will be able to see reasons to respect your parents.
The proper view of your parents, however, starts with a proper view of yourself. If you don’t feel good about yourself, it is difficult to feel good about someone else. The apostle Paul advised first-century Christians: “I would say to every one of you not to estimate himself above his real value, but to make a sober rating of himself.”—Romans 12:3, Charles B. Williams.
While you should not become prideful, avoid going to the other extreme by ignoring your “real value.” When your conduct is solidly based on the Bible, you can have confidence in your judgment, since “the reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.” (Psalm 19:7) Such confidence will prevent others from causing you to act disrespectfully.
Honor is shown to your parents by what you say to them and how you say it. When all is going well, this is usually no problem. But, at times, your parents will say or do things that hurt your feelings. Also, during the teenage years, many bewildering emotions may cause you to get angry with yourself. Frustrations, feelings of loss or betrayal, and fear can become a huge emotional burden. Because of such heavy vexations, you may react as did the man Job, who said: “That is why my own words have been wild talk.”—Job 6:1-3.
“Wild talk,” however, can be disrespectful. “Sometimes when I was discussing a problem with Mom and she couldn’t see my point, I’d get mad and say something out of spite just to hurt her. It was my way of getting back at her,” admitted 22-year-old Roger. “But when I walked away, I felt so bad, and I knew she didn’t feel good either.”
Roger saw that his thoughtless words ‘stabbed’ and ‘caused pain’ and yet did not solve any problem. He knew that the Bible said, “The tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” (Proverbs 12:18; 15:1) “Though it was hard, I would go back and apologize,” explained Roger. “I knew that this was the best thing to do in Jehovah’s eyes. I could then discuss the problem more calmly, and we could get it solved.” Yes, a fitting apology shows that you really want to honor your parents.
Since abusive speech is usually fueled by anger, it is vital that you learn to deal properly with this potentially destructive emotion. “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control,” observes Proverbs 29:11. (New International Version) Thus, if you are angry, wait until your emotions are under control and then try to express yourself calmly. But cultivating respectful speech means more than just ‘counting to ten.’
The Need for Insight
“The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression,” states Proverbs 19:11. The original Hebrew word for “insight” draws attention to the “knowledge of the reason” for something. So having insight will cause you to look beyond the immediate confrontation.
For instance, if a parent refuses to let you go somewhere, ask yourself, ‘Is my parent thinking of my best interests? What difference will it really make if I don’t go? Is it mainly my pride or ego that’s hurting?’ While the situation may be frustrating, is it the end of the world? After thinking it over, you may see good reasons to keep your mouth in check and not make a bad situation much worse by talking back.—Proverbs 10:19; 16:23.
Insight nurtures understanding, for it enables you to draw in knowledge of another’s circumstances or background. (Proverbs 21:11) For example, one girl explained: ‘It used to get on my nerves to spend time with my family. But when my dad’s mother got very sick, we had to spend a lot of time with her. She talked to my father like he was a boy, and I never thought of him as being my age. So I started to think that he must have had a hard life, and I felt less selfish. Now I don’t get that mad at him when he asks me to do things.’
Also, insight helps you to see the beauty in ‘passing over transgressions.’ Yes, even if you feel that you have a legitimate cause for complaint, be willing to put up with others and freely forgive them. (Colossians 3:13) When you are hurt, it is natural to think of revenge. But by really forgiving, you stop a vicious cycle that usually ends in disrespectful speech or actions.
Especially when you are disciplined by your parents do you need insight. This quality will help you to accept correction and to realize that to do so is to your advantage. (Compare Psalm 2:10.) Frankly, only a fool “disrespects the discipline of his father.” (Proverbs 15:5) So rather than rebel or sulk when correction is administered, show that you honor your parents by trying to apply it.
Insight will also help you to be sensitive to your parents’ moods and to try to assist them. One youth named Josh explained how he and his brother took their mother’s mood into consideration. “Once my mother came home from work very hassled and tired,” Josh explained. “We were used to this so we—my brother and I—had cleaned up the house before she got back. She was delighted.” Do you show similar honor to your parents?
Showing honor also means respecting your parents’ privacy. There are times when your parents need to get away by themselves. They may have important things to discuss that they would rather you not hear. Give them that right. If you find your parents engaged in a serious discussion, why not go to your room or visit a friend? This will show you to be a person having insight.
So look for ways that you can show honor to your parents. Such honor will usually improve your relationship with them. Even if it does not, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are pleasing God. By showing such honor, “it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.”—Ephesians 6:3.
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When a parent says something that hurts your feelings, try to avoid disrespectful speech