“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
“Honour is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation. Accordingly, individuals (or corporate bodies) are assigned worth and stature based on the harmony of their actions with a specific code of honour, and the moral code of the society at large.” – Wikipedia
I have wrestled with this commandment for the entirety of my life. I have been taught that Honouring our parents is doing what they say, being nice, showing respect and basically setting them up on a pedestal where we must almost bow down to their every wishes to obey this commandment. This seems like a highly flawed and severely disturbing interpretation of a commandment. God is flawless and his commandments must follow the same spotless manner.
My parents are far from model parents. My mother divorced my father when I was ten years old for various reasons, none of them justifiable in my opinion, he should have divorced her long before but he held out, kept hope and lost in the end. As long as I can recall they fought viciously in verbal assaults for long periods of time. I remember observing these two people who were supposed to love and care for us abusing each other with hateful speech and yells. I don’t remember what was said, just the tone and attitude of them. My father was mostly on the defensive side, taking the brunt of the battle like someone in the corner of the boxing ring. He never lashed back physically towards her but one time he put a hole in the wall he was so angry. He had every right to be that angry though, he had just confronted her with an affair that she had with the Santa she hired for our Christmas party. She was a very evil woman and has been all her life as far as I can gather from others who knew her before she gave birth to me almost 40 years ago.
After the divorce she went from John to John, finding those who would give her things, money, experiences and when they lost interest of caught on to her scam she would move on to the next unsuspecting victim while ignoring her children and their needs. She had the time to become a beautician, a massage therapist and RNA but couldn’t find the time to be a mother. I observed this for many years but what could I do, I was supposed to Honour her but how? How do you Honour someone who is breaking ALL the other commandments? At one time she had even had affairs with her own twin’s husband, luring them in with a massage in the basement of our home. Myriads of other things were done throughout those years that I won’t mention but let’s just surmise that overall, if she lived hundreds of years ago she would be wearing the Reddest letter A and it would be nailed to her while she hung in the town square.
My father was a seemingly friendly religious fellow with an equally troublesome childhood environment that left him scarred for life and disturbingly controlling to force his children and spouses into religious submission. Even though he spoke the truth about various gospel doctrines he did it in a confrontational and arrogant way that most people were more put-off by him than would listen to his perspective or interpretation of the subject matter. We all loved him and were glad to be around him when we had our time with him but after the divorce a piece of him was lost and our connection to him dwindled and all but was separated once he remarried to a woman that had three children of her own and was overwhelmed by the fact he had five kids already. A separation occurred and we eventually became a commodity who were fought over and traded for status or revenge. Most of that came from the maternal side but the environment that the paternal side provided did not help matters. My brother and sisters and I lived two entirely different lives. On one side we were able to basically do as we pleased and we were not encouraged to be religious and the other side the religious flare was as if we were going through the crusades all over again and we had to bow down to the king who was our father on earth and do as he said or the judgement of God almighty would fall on us like the hammer of Thor. He was shunned by most of our family and even those in the neighborhoods where he resided because of his staunch stance on gospel doctrines and his abrasive way of dealing with a disagreement of opinion. Many thought of him as a self-proclaimed prophet and I couldn’t blame them, he did appear to think of himself that way. He was right and everyone else was wrong. This was not just with religion, it was with all aspects of life, business, sports, television, music, anything and everything. Over time he became what seemed more passive or gentle with opposing viewpoints but that was only on the surface, the same judgmental and abusive person still lurked underneath waiting to devour us when we crossed the line or spoke in direct contradiction with him.
Just three years ago my wife and I drove the three hours to talk with him and his wife about a four-page letter they sent us detailing all the offences we had committed against them, which in the end were just miscommunication and issues they had kept bottled up which the cause were just assumptions. Communication goes a long way if you want to keep a relationship in good standing, the opposite leads to assumptions and hurt feelings.
In business he was never successful; he was in the janitorial sector for the first half of my life. Going from one job to the next, all for convincing reasons that were explained to me at the time but what did I know, I was just a kid and had no life experience to compare anything to. He got into the MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) scene when I was around 5 years old, probably before that as well. Always trying to get rich quick, buying into every scheme that would make you a millionaire over night! That is the type of job I was to follow, I was trained to think that way, to work without working or with minimal effort. To think of education as a burden and that sales was the end-all type of job to have. He had us go door-to-door as young as five and six years old like in school when you do fundraisers but it was for our family, not school, it was weird and I hated it but I was good at it. I learned to smile and pretend and to lie about the products. I had never tried any of the products but I was expected to sell them. But it was for our good right, it was to give us some spending money to do as we wished with or to save up for something big one day! It was exciting, and it was fun making money but it gave me such a flawed sense of reality and the world. Then to find out that we didn’t even get the money we earned, most of it went to Dad for whatever reason. We made a portion of what we sold so I suppose it was a good lesson in how the real world works. Which reminds me of the treats he would buy for us. We knew we were poor, didn’t have much money but somehow he would always rustle up a few dollars to buy a Hostess Pie at the local convenience store, or one of those big pops or some other treat. BUT, there was always a catch. He would require a bite from each of us. He would say, “but you get the rest of the treat so it’s fair right?”. It never really seemed fair to us, in fact it made us not want any at all eventually because he would literally bite off half of whatever we got. Talk about a let-down! We got this big treat then immediately half was taken back. What is so wrong with giving something and not wanting anything in return? That was my thinking anyways, that is what we learned in Sunday School. But we did as he required.
My father ended up starting many new get rich quick schemes roping unsuspecting friends and family in to “invest” in a grand idea that will make them financially independent. All of them failed for various reasons which were all rooted in pride. He made the decisions, he is the patriarch of the family, he knows best, he is the boss, yada yada. Nobody else had any good ideas, nobody else knew anything and definitely could not receive any revelation on the subject except him. An extremely self-centered view of how things work. Failure after failure and we, his family suffered for it every time. Luckily I got out early, I stop buying his baloney in my mid-teens but my brothers and sisters were still in and to this day many of them have hard feelings that I left. I had to or I would have ended it all! Another example of only looking at one’s own perspective and not trying to understand the other side.
I tried for years to understand why both parents made the choices they made. Their childhoods were good glimpses of what they had become but there was more, much more and most I would not understand for decades after the experiences. I was scarred for a long time and my life was affected by those experiences as I would imagine all of us are to some extent to what we went through in our youth, good and bad. I get that because of my mother’s upbringing and her environment and marrying my dad that she felt she needed to go within and only think of herself for preservation but went to far and became her own God. My father’s youth was filled with turmoil, drug abuse by his parents and a satanic atmosphere who escaped into the arms of a religious loving family. Who after found my mom and married her and because of how he was helped turn my mom into who she became. They were both catalysts to each other for better or for worse but the better was the losing end in the battle.
So many other details should be included to paint the proper picture but let’s just say that in today’s world both would be in jail, undergoing psychiatric evaluations or in the least under investigation for fraud or child sexual abuses. The latter being mom’s ownership. So when I hear, “Honour thy father and thy mother” and that it is a COMMANDMENT FROM GOD, I shudder and cannot help but think everyone has misinterpreted that “commandment” and it’s real meaning. I do not believe that our loving father in Heaven forces us to do anything but if we have covenanted to follow all His commandments a sort of implied force exists. That is not to say that in a round-about way he is “forcing” us to do anything, we would be choosing to force ourselves to observe that command. So I researched, prayed, listen to church talks and advice from church leaders and the conclusion that is the only logical conclusion I can render is that there is a big FAT “IF” involved. Append to that command with, “IF thy father and mother are worthy of Honour”. No man or woman is entitled with Honour from their children, like respect it should be earned. Entitlements only exist under failed political policies not under the banner of heaven, we earn and work for what we get, nothing is guaranteed. My siblings and I have been dishonoured and no honor should be given to them as the world defines it.
An extended view should be taken on the phrase “Honour thy father and thy mother”. Expand the word “Honour” to “Honourable” and take that within ourselves. In order to Honour my father and mother the phrase is simply metaphorical and symbolic to what they represent. My parents represent my ancestors or family names and by honouring them, all of them, I must obey all of Gods commandments and my covenants with Him to give Honour to my “father” and “mother”, two sides of a lineage that receive Honour by my works. I believe that is the true meaning of the commandment, the standard definition or understanding only leads to and breeds entitlements, false respect and abuse of patriarchal order or priesthood authoritative unrighteous dominion. If we were all to strive to be Honourable in all our actions, thoughts and deeds, our progenitors and indeed all humanity would receive Honour and the command from the Father heeded and obeyed to its fullest extent. God is Love and all commandments follow the theme of love and are infallible. Our challenge is to understand them from the perspective of God and not what we want them to be or what our traditions define them as. I have much to repent for and am not a perfect man and I pray for God’s mercy to rest on me and give me the strength I need to bring honour to my “father” and “mother” by my works.
May God bless you and your journey in this world.