• Octavio Cesar Martinez

How Can You Honor a Flawed Parent?

Updated: Feb 17, 2019


My Dad and me. Circa Spring 1958
Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you. —Exodus 20
Lux astern, libera me —Gabriel Fauré Requiem in d, Op. 48

Ever stop to think about the ten commandments? Probably not. Here's a thought: like wine, they're not for children. Many well-meaning but misguided Sunday School teachers and parents teach the fifth commandment as if it was written to kids. And that's too bad, because all of the commandments were intended for adults, not kids.


Here’s are some additional thoughts about the 5th commandment specifically: its the only commandment which gives a reason to follow it, "so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you." This implies a society where children honor their parents will thrive versus a society where [adult] children do not honor their parents that will implode on itself. It also implies a principle of mental health.


We are not commanded to love our parents, but to honor them. This is especially striking when you consider who the Bible tells us to love: our God, our neighbors, our enemies, but NOT our parents. It seems the Bible understands some people — for different reasons — will not choose to [or cannot choose to] love their parents. The Bible does not tell us to do what maybe psychologically or emotionally impossible.

There is no one else are we told to honor, but our parents.

Daddy issues are cliché until they aren’t. From slutty to angry men and women, adults with daddy issues — adults who have not honored their parents — are colored, textured, and often twisted into sub-humans.

I was.


Maybe you were [or are] too. Until ten years ago, the fifth commandment made no sense to me. How does one honor a father who was so contemptible? How does one honor your father and mother? I’ll answer the second question first by quoting Dennis Prager.

"…There are many ways to honor parents. The general rule is this: They get special treatment. Parents are unique; so they must be treated in a unique way. You don’t talk to them in quite the same way you do anyone else. For example, you might use expletives when speaking to a friend; but you don’t with a parent. You don’t call them by their first name. And when you leave their home and make your own, you maintain contact with them. Having no contact with parents is the opposite of honoring them."

Here's primary method for honoring your parents: forgiveness. Forgiveness is freedom from your past, which allows you to re-interpret your past. Oh, you can recall what really sucked, but it no longer has a hold on you.

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