Home > Family, Freedom, Grace, Parent/Child, Relationship > Honoring a Dishonoring Parent

Honoring a Dishonoring Parent

December 10, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the spirit of full disclosure and before you move on to the next paragraph you should know that what follows is not coming from wise personal counsel bases on my own lesson learned. It instead comes from what God has shone me in what I believe is the answer to a question I, and many of you, have had to ask ourselves countless times. In writing this I am not speaking down from a pulpit, but lying flat on the floor.

This is actually a blog I would rather not write because doing so places me in a position of greater accountability and compels me to do what I can to improve the relationship I have with my parents…which I admit is something I often don’t care to do. Divorce and abuse of different kinds and even my fairly recent commitment to Christ has caused a number of fractures in my family to the point where I have not spoken to most of them in the past 6 months or longer. In reality I have no place to write about restoration in that context but I hope that my full disclosure will help you know that if your can relate to many of these things than you are not alone.

Anyone who has darkened the door of a church has heard the verse, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

This brings to mind great memories for those who had a good family life and strong, positive parental influence in their lives. They smile and don’t give this commandment another thought. For them giving honor is almost second nature. Please know that I do not think negatively towards those who fall into this category in any way. You are much needed as mentors and support for those in the next group.

The other group of people who are the focus of my writing feel immense pain and confusion at the mention of this passage of scripture. For them, their family is broken and in many ways, their parents were less than admirable and even abusive. They ask the question, “How can I honor a parent who dis-honors me?” or “How do I give honor to the dad (or mom) who spent years abusing me?” For them, answers are hard to come by.
I put myself in this questioning group of damaged souls.

I don’t know what the typical “Pastor answer” is to these questions but let me share with you what God pointed out to me while reading 1 Samuel in my car during lunch this week.

1 Samuel is where we find the story of Saul and David. If you remember, Saul was made king by God through Samuel, the Prophet at the time. Saul did things that were serious infringements in God’s sight and he was rejected as King. This is where David comes into the picture. At God’s direction Samuel goes to the house of Jesse where David is anointed as King but he does not take up this mantle yet. Instead he goes into the service of Saul and becomes well know after he kills Goliath. David looked up to Saul as a father but it was at this point that Saul began to become jealous of him because of the favor God had given him. This is where we pick-up the story.

Saul’s jealousy quickly turned into disdain and hate. It was not long before he began to express those feelings physically. In fact, it got so bad that he repeatedly tried to kill David. Realizing that he was in serious trouble, David left. Saul pursued him, not satisfied until he completed the dark plan his mind had conceived and incubated for so many years.

While my experience is not that extreme I know some can relate to this type of danger at the hands of their parents. Either way I think it is obvious that Saul’s actions do not in themselves merit honor or respect. Most would even say David had significant reason to protect himself with force, which he had multiple opportunities to do. But instead, this is what he said.

“Saul, my lord the king. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed. Father, now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.”

At this, Saul shows contrition and momentary repentance and promises to leave David alone. That quickly changes and again, he is following David. Once more, David had the chance to put an end to it by taking Saul’s life but does not, and Saul repeats his apology. Seeing the pattern, David puts more distance between himself and Saul. They lived the rest of their lives separated from one another.

Despite all that Saul had tried to do to him, David mourned bitterly when he heard that Saul had been killed in battle. He had always had God-like love for Saul.

“Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan.”

You know how in Acts it says that David was a man after God’s own heart?

I think that is the point. David was put into the care of a man who he looked to as a father but treated him with contempt and abuse. I can only imagine how that must have hurt him to see Saul throw a spear at him. I know many of us have had verbal, spiritual and even physical spears thrown at us from our parents. Perhaps the way we start to honor our parents in this situation is by first not wishing that harm will come to them and making a point to not be the source of such harm. Maybe it is even confronting them in love like David did to tell them that as their child what they did or said was wrong and hurtful but despite it all you wish them the best. For those cases where their contrition only lasts a short while and the abusive action continues, it is justifiable to do these things and followed by separation for an amount of time determined by God, which may be until death.

I don’t pretend for a moment that any of this is easy or that there are most certainly other considerations that may come into play that I have not addressed. But I can say with 100% clarity that there are more answers in scripture for our daily problems and questions than we could ever use. If any of this rings true to you, please go and read 1 Samuel starting in chapter 15 through 2 Samuel chapter 1 while asking God to continue to expand the idea of honoring our parents through this story. I pray He will show you much more than I did here and give you direction on how to begin the process of showing honor to those who dishonor you.

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  1. December 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I like where you were going with this. It takes great humility and character honed in His presence to extend grace and honor to those that having the power to influence caused pain. Most of the time hurt people themselves right?

    I love also through the psalms that it is David that often prays and cries out for holy vindication … The turning of a wrong to a right through favor. I have seen my God do this. I was grouped with you in the parent department but have found through gratefulness and honor God turned hearts … mine and theirs.

    Shortly before my father passed I’m grateful for talks where we shared our hurts, stories and truths although they weren’t always the similiar of the same incidences … There was a respecting of eachothers truths. I count those talks a gift because when we lose life … Well we are losing life and every life started a dream for greatness in God’s heart.

    I have a great relationship with my Mom that came after years of saying thank you even when it was hard to find things to be thankful for from my childhood. Thank you you came home. That you feed me. That I had a bed to sleep in. Gratefulness unlocked an ability in her to feel the grace to admit she could have done things differently.

    I guess this post hit a Holy Spirit soft spot in my heart:) Because it’s truly by His Spirit He reveals such a kingdom minded heart towards those who unknowingly hurt us, misunderstand and mis-stewarded us.

    Bravo … All that to say I loved it!

    • December 10, 2011 at 11:39 pm

      Thanks Ris. That means a lot coming from you.
      Maybe I need to add a 3rd group for those who started out in the 2nd group but found a level of restoration that brought peace to their hearts.

      I would not mind hearing more about the steps you took to help this happen in your life because in truth, I’m not too sure where to start…or perhaps lack the courage to be the one to take the first step. how’s that for transparency 🙂

  2. Joanna Freeman
    December 12, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I’m not nearly as eloquent as Ris 😉 … But this was so great! Loved it!!!

    And, Ris, I love your thoughts and your heart too!

  3. Sacha
    January 6, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Fabulous writing from a willing heart! I have often wanted to pursue this topic mainly because a broken family is a lonely road as a child & often, even as an adult! As a child, any response you have meant you were rebellious or even inciting the abuse & as an adult the issues tend to be a Debby Downer or at least make people uncomfortable. Also, I have noticed that people assume that you yourself must repeat or fight repeating the pattern if abuse, which can also make people suffer from the effects of their childhood pain in silence. For this reason & more, I want to share! I want to show where I have walked & what I have laid down & allowed the Father to help me with in order to show all of those others just like me that it’s not too much for our God & that they are not “throw aways” because there families were jacked up!:) So, all that to say, there are so many facets of this like how to honor a parent without becoming permissive of the same abuse once again or how to even pray for them or the walls you’ll likely need to let Jesus remove a long the way…. Way to go, Doug, & especially since your speaking from a place of a current & not just past situation which makes you more vulnerable to exposure! It’s so obvious that you want your pain tp reflect God’s truths & freedoms to others in a very real & deep way! I’ve never found a way to approach this topic unconflicted & I think you did fabulous!!

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