The Bible talks about honoring our parents. Specifically, Exodus 20:12 says to “Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land your God is giving you”
But how do you do it? How do you honor the parent who has spent a majority of your life dishonoring you?
I’ll be the first person to tell you that it’s hard. It’s likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But God had a reason for commanding us to honor our parents. He knew not all parents would be perfect. He knew some of them would go out of their way to hurt their children. And perhaps that’s why He gave this commandment because when you honor the parent that hurt you, when you show them kindness, compassion, and understanding, you heal yourself from the hurt they inflicted on you. You let go and become free from their toxicity because in forgiving them, you are acknowledging an important fact:
What they did to you and how they hurt you was never about you. It was never about your worth and who you are, it was about them and who they are – or rather who life caused them to become.
The moment God put this realization into my heart, a huge weight was lifted. When this realization occurs, you’ll be able to see that abusive parent for who they are- for some, it might be a parent who is broken and who just couldn’t help being the parent they were. So, every hurtful word thrown at you will begin to stop hurting as much because you’ll know who they were and also know who you are in Christ.
But it’s not that their hateful remarks or toxic behavior towards you doesn’t hurt. It’s that with God’s help, you can protect yourself from them while honoring them.
It took a long while for me to get here, but by God’s grace, I was able to come up with effective measures to help me honor my parent while living a peaceful or peace filled life. Below are some of the measures that I’m able to share with you:
Choose to Seek a Closer Relationship with God
Seeking a closer relationship with God was a game-changer for me. It helped me realize God was more of a parent to me than my real parents. And even better, He would never abuse me. The closer I got to God, the more I realized that honoring my parents was about honoring him too.
Some might wrongly think that honoring your hurtful parent might mean you allow them into your life or you continue subjecting yourself to their emotional abuse. But it actually
means surrendering your pain and hurt to God, and allowing Him to guide you through the situation.
It doesn’t matter what your hurtful parent does to you because God is now seen as your real parent, and as long as you honor Him by honoring your hurtful parent, He will comfort and protect you from any hurt they might do.
Choose to Not Speak Hatefulness
The natural reaction towards a parent who has hurt you is to speak ill of them or to them. But doing that only amplifies your hurt. Speaking hatefulness prevents you from healing or moving forward. God wants you to speak kindly and compassionately of that parent who hurt you. Match their hateful words with kind words, and see how it changes and transforms you.
Choose to Set Up Healthy Boundaries
You need to set up boundaries that make it hard for your parent to hurt you. Honoring your parent doesn’t mean allowing yourself to remain in that emotional abuse cycle. You need to remove yourself from that environment because it’s much harder to honor them while you are in the middle of the abuse.
Create emotional and physical distance from them and while you are away, pray for them and love them as God intends. Let them know you will always be there when they need you, but make them understand that you need your space and will no longer be in a situation that is toxic for your emotional and spiritual growth.
Choose to Embrace Joy, Love, and Peace
You deserve it. No matter what your parent has said to you, no matter how much they’ve tried to take that joy, love, and peace away from you, understand that you deserve it. So, immerse yourself in actions and a purpose that brings you joy and peace, and actively seek them out. Seek God too, because He is the ultimate giver of joy, peace, and love. The more you embrace these healthy qualities, the more you are
able to share and give them to others.
Choose to Pray for Them
Kneeling down on your knees to pray for someone who’s hurt you is the highest form of love, humility, and trust in God. Because at that moment, you are admitting that you are not perfect and you trust that God can handle your abuser better than you ever could. You are also letting go of expectations or needs from your hurtful parent. You know they cannot give you what you need, so you are taking your requests to the only One who can.
Praying for your abusive parent also rids your heart of malice and resentment. It shows a form of emotional maturity and growth that few people have.
Choose to Forgive Them
This will be hard, especially if your abusive parent never owns up to the hurt they caused you. Even more so, if they never make the effort to ask for your forgiveness. But here’s what God says about forgiving those who hurt you,
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25, NIV)
If you want God to help you through your hurt and emotional trauma, if you want Him to forgive you when you hurt someone else (because you will), then forgive the parent who hurt you. You don’t have to bend over backward to please them anymore, you don’t have to be provoked by them anymore, but you do have to forgive them.
Choose to Take Care of Yourself
Just because you’ve spent your life catering to the whims of an abusive parent doesn’t mean taking care of yourself is selfish; on the contrary, it’s absolutely necessary. Abuse breeds poor health and poor life choices, so you need to make the decision to prioritize yourself so you can heal.
Choose to Break the Cycle
You’ve been hurt by parents who were supposed to love you. So you understand what that feels like, and how dangerous it can be to carry that toxicity into a relationship with your children. So break the cycle; honor your parent by choosing not to let your children go through what you went through. Take intentional steps to be a better parent than your parent was to you.
In doing that, you honor God, your parent, yourself and your children too.
It’s not too late to pray for your hurtful parent or to forgive them. Do it for yourself, but most importantly, do it because God wants you to. You’ll begin to see just how you slowly but surely become transformed.