Written by Dave Barlow
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of St Nic’s.
Coming to university is for many, the first time they move away from home. The new-found sense of independence and freedom is exciting but when being back for summer can sometimes be fraught with confusion and frustration as you try and work through new relationship dynamics. You aren’t dependant on your parents in the same way you used to be but the call to honour your parents is a life-long one, not just until you’re 18.
So how do we do that? Here are five top tips on how to honour your parents in adulthood:
1. Be thankful for them
After having several new family members in the last 2 years, I’ve been fascinated to see just how helpless we are when we come into this world. We can’t speak, walk, feed ourselves or even hold our own head up! Our parents did these things for us and, at an appropriate time, taught us to do them. At the very least, we owe our parents a great deal just for still being here! If you want to honour your parents, the first step is to be thankful for them (and verbalise it so they know!)
2. Communicate with them
Communication is a cornerstone of any healthy relationship. If you want to have a good relationship with your parents, which honours them, then you need to communicate with them. Ask them about their day, learn about their life before you and what they’re doing now. Try and ask about more than just their day too, relationships go deeper as we share more vulnerable parts of ourselves.
3. Forgive them
No matter how great your relationship, at some point your parents have probably hurt you; they are flawed, just like you. God has freely given his forgiveness and grace to us, how much more should we be giving it to our parents?
We need to release any bitterness we hold towards them and forgive. To not do so will just lead to resentment which is poisonous for you, them and your relationship. Forgive them and be free.
4. Pray for them
Another way we can honour our parents is to pray for them regularly. As we become engrossed in our new life away from home, it’s easy to forget that our parents have lives and difficulties too. But, there are tons of ways we can pray for our parents: their relationship with God, their salvation if they aren’t believers, other relationships, work and health to name just a few.
5. Disagree respectfully
When we are younger obedience is the main way we show honour to our parents, but as we get older and more independent our relationship changes. We start to form our own opinions rather than having simplified ideals of our parents which means, sometimes, we will clash. We are still called to love our parents regardless of our differences. This means listening to them and using words and actions which encourages them and not tears them down. It’s not thinking badly of them because we disagree. There are times when it’s OK or even right to go against our parent’s desires but it’s never OK to do it disrespectfully.
But what if I can’t?!
I know that for some of us, the idea of honouring parents will be extremely hard. Some of us have experienced difficult relationships, abuse or lack a relationship with our parents. How is it possible to honour parents who have treated us so dishonourably? I’m aware that making generalisations is hard, even precarious, on such a sensitive issue.
At St Nic’s, we have pastoral care support if you need someone to help you navigate through this. This post offers just a few of my own reflections, but I encourage you to pray and seek help if you need it.
Perhaps the best one can do in this circumstance to honour God, is to avoid dishonouring their parents. This may mean not speaking to them but refusing to speak ill of them. It may mean showing a willingness to forgive them, even if they aren’t repentant. It may mean releasing the bitterness and trusting in God’s comfort. It may mean facing up to the trauma but not taking revenge.
(Note: honouring your parents doesn’t mean trying to cover up what they’ve done. If there’s been abuse, it is NOT dishonourable to make that known and follow the appropriate procedure.)
As I study the Bible more I realise that God often asks his people to do insurmountable things, or at least they would be without his presence. Honouring your parents might seem inconceivable but God still calls us to treat all people with respect, even those who have wronged us. He doesn’t leave us alone to do this, we can call upon the Holy Spirit to help us.