Why should I honour my parents when they don’t deserve it?

Stella Lee // October 8, 2018, 12:02 pm


This article is going to be quite a personal one because it concerns my family. I’m not sure how people will view my family and I after this post gets out, but I pray that God will use my thoughts to help people who can relate to my experience.

Growing up, I had dreams for my life. I believed in them almost as if they were fairy tales, but none came true with the limitations my parents brought me under.

I resented most of my childhood, having spent many days crying alone in the study room. My diary from those years is all torn and shrivelled up – probably from all the tears I poured out crying to God.

I asked if He was there and whether He knows how I was feeling.

As I grew up, nothing much changed in my relationship with my parents.

In fact, as I got older, I began to see the uglier sides of my family even more clearly. My family isn’t a godly one, in the sense that people aren’t likely to know us as Christians by the way we behave together. We weren’t a family united in Christ.

People who met my mum often expressed surprise that her three girls attended the same church and served together. But I was always uncomfortable hearing that. I was disgusted at the facade we cultivated in church, when the reality was that we weren’t behaving quite the same at home.

People say that when a man wants to date a girl, he should look at her mother. Because the values her mother holds and the way she conducts herself will be visible in her daughter’s life.

I always thought I’d surely be left single if that was the case.

I wasn’t taught about life. Often, it was life that taught me instead.

My mum didn’t teach me to spend within my means. She didn’t tell me what being in a relationship was all about. She didn’t push me to study or tell me I needed to have goals. My mum didn’t do all these things for me.

My dad wasn’t the fatherly figure I saw in other families. My dad didn’t tell me to pursue education or develop my interests. He didn’t teach me about boys. My dad didn’t do all these things for me.

My diary from those years is all torn and shrivelled up – probably from all the tears I poured out crying to God.

As you can tell, I harboured a lot negativity towards my family for a long time. But I decided to change my frame of mind. I decided to look at the good side of people – to believe the best of my family.

I see that my mum quietly provides for my basic needs. My mom thinks of me even when I’m not with her because I see the things she buys for me when I come back home at night. My mom cares for my happiness: even when she was financially tight, she always tried to give me the things I wanted. My mum made sacrifices for me.

And my dad? He is patient and not quick to anger. My dad works hard to provide for the family. My dad notices when I am troubled and comforts me. My dad buys food for me when I’m hungry. My dad walks me home even when he is tired. My dad made sacrifices for me.

As I think about all my parents’ good points, I realised I could keep going on. Likewise, when I was thinking of all their bad points, that list could also have been endless.

Gratitude breeds gratitude. It is far more productive to think well (Philippians 4:8) of them because it produces love and not resentment.

My mistake was focusing on all the things they didn’t do for me – when they were loving me in their own ways the whole time! I spent so many years blind to the love they gave me. They have helped to make me the confident and God-fearing person I am today – I can never deny that.

So while my childhood may not have been the best, I now understand what my mum meant when she said that we had come this far by the grace of God.

God loves us unconditionally. He didn’t set conditions or terms before making a move to save us. He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners.

When God said to honour our parents, He didn’t say to honour them because they loved or provided for us. It’s one of the Ten Commandments and when we seek to obey the commandment, God is glorified.

““Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)” (Ephesians 6:2, ESV)

If I had to think or evaluate how my parents have loved or cared for me before honouring them, then my honour is conditional – totally opposite to how God loves.

We don’t get to measure what others deserve. The only thing we all deserve is death. It would have been a deserved fate if God simply tossed us in the fire – but He embraced us instead and offered us eternal life.

God’s love is unconditional. He didn’t set conditions or terms before making a move to save us. He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners.

So because His love is unconditional, honouring our parents should also be unconditional. I prayed to God for humility and wisdom to be able to love my parents in the same way He loves me, because He is glorified when we obey His commandments.

But we will never be able to do such things without the Holy Spirit. Without God’s transforming work in our hearts, it is impossible to obey His commandments and follow Him.

In closing, as I was writing this article, Bishop Desmond Tutu was mentioned in a sermon I attended. I ended up doing a search on him, when one of his quotes jumped out at me.

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.

When God gives us gifts, we accept them with joy and gratitude. So now I’m thinking about how I can show gratitude to the family that God has given me.

This time, by the grace of God, I am going to love and honour them unconditionally.

This article was first published on Stella’s blog and is republished with permission.