I’ve wrestled with this one for more years than I care to admit. It’s in the top ten (commandments, that is) so it should be a well-understood and thoroughly taught subject within the church. But it’s not. It’s more often than not flat out ignored or fearfully tiptoed around in the church community. Let’s be honest, if it were easy to talk about and face, then everyone would be doing it. To be clear, I’m talking about honoring parents who are abusive.
My parents were, scratch that, are abusive. I’m not in their lives anymore so I tend to think of their behavior in past tense because it’s in my past. When I left, they were quite adamant about not changing their abusive behavior and quite unwilling to even admit that their behavior was bad in any way. They’re both narcissists so what did I expect? Too much from their wounded souls, as I later realized.
Narcissists are hard nuts to crack. They protect their pain so viciously that they don’t even admit to themselves that they are in pain. And forget about talking feelings with them. They squash any honest conversation on feelings as soon as it begins. Narcissists just can’t handle honesty, authenticity, feelings or anything that has to do with anyone else but themselves.
I am the daughter of narcissists who neglected me. They verbally and emotionally abused me. And then they did worse things. Even today, it’s too much for me to think about it all at once. It breaks my heart to think my parents hurt me so vindictively and sadistically. I wrestle between two opposing forces: accepting them as they are and wanting them to be loving and caring. It’s hard to love someone who is abusive, to need them and want to be in relationship with them but knowing that they aren’t able to be there in any real or authentic way.
How can I let them go? How can I accept them as they are – abusive and unloving? How can I bring honor to people that it’s not even safe for me to be around? Why would I want to bring them honor?
All good questions. I wrestled with these for a long time. Truth is I still wrestle with them from time to time. It’s a process, learning to accept people as they are and not as I would have them be.
The last question is simple to answer but not so simple to come to terms with: why would I want to bring them honor? I want to honor them because the Lord commands it, and He only commands me to do things that are good. I trust Him, so doing this thing is what I want to do and what I trust Him to help me do. I can’t do it in my own strength but with His help, I am able to do this seemingly impossible thing – bring honor to my abusive parents.
As for the “how to”, that I find in the scripture that says God wants godly offspring (see Malachi 2:15). I am that, now, godly offspring. No thanks to my parents. Everything they taught me was bad – perversion, mocking, hostility toward all, distrust of authority, disrespect, gossip, deception, manipulation, isolation, unhealthy self-reliance, self-loathing and so on.
I am only godly offspring because of Who He Is and Him only. He was the one who cared for me, who is healing my wounds and teaching me His ways. It is because of Him and through Him that I am godly offspring today. I would not otherwise know how to be godly offspring.
I am His daughter. I walk in His ways and follow His commands. I seek His face every day and delight in His presence in my heart and soul. I am becoming more and more like Him every day. I long to do what is pleasing in His eyes. Even if that means honoring people who caused me devastating trauma and who tried to destroy me every single day of my childhood.
I believe that it pleases God that I am willing to be merciful to those who harmed me and that I am willing to acknowledge the good things that my parents did for me – house me, feed me, send me to school and let me go to church. These are the things that I can acknowledge and honor my parents for doing for me.
God wants godly offspring. I am that godly offspring for my parents. I bring honor to them by living my life for Christ. How I live my life brings honor to my parents. There is no greater honor that I can bring them but this!
The strange thing as I think on who I’ve become in Christ is that I am actually delighted and humbled that I can bring this honor to my parents. Even though I am small and insignificant in their eyes, I bring them this great and holy honor. God has given me this amazing gift to bring honor to those who don’t deserve it. The Lord has allowed me this opportunity to be like Jesus to my parents, to make a sacrifice by forgiving them and covering them with the honor and dignity of having godly offspring. That is an overwhelmingly beautiful treasure to ponder.