Do you remember when you were a little girl and it was sometimes REALLY hard to honour your parents? At that age “honour” was usually spelled o-b-e-y or r-e-s-p-e-c-t. The trouble is that now we’re all grown up — with our own faith, ideals and values as well as our own personalities and preferences in music — it’s still sometimes really hard to honour our parents.
The requirement to honour our parents doesn’t have a lower or upper age expiration date and I believe that all of us who are children (and I think that is all of us) are called to honour our parents, not just into their old age, but our old age! So what is honour? How do we honour our parents? And how do we do so as we grow and mature into the women God created us to be?
I was raised with the idea that honour is not worship or blind, mindless obedience. The dictionary defines honour as the esteem due or paid to worth. The thesaurus offers commendation, deference, recognition, regard and respect as synonyms for honour.
I’m blessed to have a basically happy, healthy relationship with my parents, but we’re all three of us living in a fallen world and dealing with our own failings and flaws. Honouring my parents isn’t always easy. (And I’m sure they’d say that loving me isn’t always easy too!) I’m not an expert. I also happen to be in my late twenties and living at home — and some of you may be a lot younger or may have your own homes already. Here, however, are some thoughts to ponder as we consider how we can practically honour our parents.
1. Realise that your father and your mother are individual and unique people, and determine to honour them anyway.
Our parents have their own stories apart and together — their own triumphs and wounds, hopes and fears. They are human, not divine and they therefore make mistakes. God knows this and He asks us to honour them anyway. His request is not dependent on their perfection. Their failings and flaws — their sins — do not give us permission to sin by dishonouring them and disobeying God. Get your heart right and honour your parents from your heart.
2. Look for the good in your father and mother.
We can open our eyes to the ways in which they love and give and sacrifice for us. Even when we disagree with an attitude or decision (and it’s fine to disagree), we can try to see the situation from their perspective and understand their hearts. We can give grace. At the very least, our parents have given us life. As you want to receive grace, give grace.
3. Be polite.
“Please” and “thank you” go a long way. “How are you?” and “may I help?” go even further. It’s easy for us to be polite with our words, but impolite with our eyes and our voices. Choose to be polite and you may find that honouring your parents in courteous, simple ways isn’t so hard.
4. Disagree with your father and mother sometimes.
Disagreeing is fine. I don’t know why so many of us have got the idea that it’s far from fine. I can’t find a verse in the Bible that says that we have to feel and think exactly as our parents do! We’re individual and unique people. It’s natural and right that we should develop and grow into our own convictions and ideals…and likes and dislikes too! My father has recently discovered that he likes Brahms. His enthusiasm for playing this particular music has enabled me to discover that I don’t like Brahms. And it isn’t the end of the world. What’s more serious, to me, is that I have more tendencies to Calvinism than my father, but the fact that we disagree still isn’t the end of the world. What I try to remember is not to be personal when I disagree with my parents. In other words, disagree by all means, but keep the focus of your words and the warmth of your opinion on the thing you disagree about — for example, Brahms — and don’t descend to making personal remarks about your parents’ taste in music and character.
5. Be intentional about when you choose to openly or verbally disagree with your father and mother.
We can choose not to pick a fight over every irritation and difference of opinion. Forbearance gives honour and nurtures relationship. It tells your younger siblings that you may have more liberty to disagree because you’re older, but it’s a privilege you don’t abuse. It also gives you a better chance of being heard and understood when you feel it matters to disagree about something. My father, for example, really doesn’t like me driving alone through the countryside at night, but he lets me do it. When he rings me on his way home and tells me that there’s black ice on the roads and more snow coming, however, I consider honouring him and his fatherly concern by cancelling my evening engagements. When I do this for my “everyday” engagements he’s more willing to listen (and help!) when I make a special case that this meeting is important whatever the weather. And, if not, sometimes I just have to choose to bite my tongue. Try to choose honour over friction when possible.
6. Honour your father and mother to others.
I try to remember to look for things in my parents (in their characters or their lives) to admire and praise to others. I try to intentionally and thoughtfully praise my parents to my younger siblings. When someone compliments my smile, I tell them that I have my father and grandfather’s smile. When sometime compliments my cakes, I tell them that my mother taught me to bake and makes fabulous cakes. Let people know that you desire to honour your parents.
7. Trust God to honour His promise.
He says that if you honour your parents then it will be well with you on the earth. You do your bit, by His grace and humility and in His joy and strength, by honouring your parents. Trust Him to do His bit and let it be well with you on the earth.