About a year ago one of my relatives took offense in my belief that women should be treated with equality in the church and after spouting all her venom on my FaceBook wall, I removed her as a friend. I sent her an email explaining why and suggested we talk in private through email rather than on my wall. She sent back a long diatribe and ended with the words “And besides, the Bible says we are to honor our parents, so when are you going to start doing that?”
By then I realized this was not a conversation, it was an indictment. I could only guess her last remark was in reference to my blog. The ripples of narcissism echo far and wide in my family tree. I’m not saying she’s a narcissist, but possibly a flying monkey because she’s bought into the lies of the narcs.
It’s sad because I’ve had to remove more than one person I love from my FB because we grew up with a lack of respect and messy boundaries. If there is one criticism we ACoNs keep hearing, it’s about honoring our parents. I think it’s time to take a look at what the Bible actually says about this.
For starters these comments are a reference to the fifth commandment which states:
Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land
the Lord your God is giving you.
Does this mean God will shorten our lives if we don’t comply? This is the only commandment with a promise and it simply promises a long life for honoring our parents, but it doesn’t threaten any kind of vengeance from God.
One of the most dangerous things in Christian fundamentalism is proof texting where one verse is used by itself as a weapon to refute the common sense that comes with comparing other verses. This verse has the capacity for abuse when it’s used without empathy for hurting people. When we compare this with other verses about relationships, we find a much bigger picture.
Problem of Evil
On one forum someone wrote: “Because of the Decalogue, Christians have this flawed idea that you can’t have issues with a parent, but some people are dealing with parents that are more than flawed, they’ve done evil.”
Yet even in the face of such evil, there will be people who accuse us of judging our parents, they seem to forget Jesus taught us to test the fruit of people’s lives.
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit,
and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
A tree is identified by its fruit.
Figs are never gathered from thornbushes,
and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.
A good person produces good things
from the treasury of a good heart,
and an evil person produces evil things
from the treasury of an evil heart.
What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Some believe when our parents gave us life, we became obligated to obey them for as long as they live, but the verse in the Bible that says this, specifically states:
Children obey your parents in the Lord.
When confronted with such black and white thinking, we can take courage from the wisdom of Jesus.
My mother and brothers are those
who hear God’s word and put it into practice.
-Jesus, Luke 8:21
Jesus seems to define family ties by those who obey God. Now to be honest we have all disobeyed God at some time. I don’t think Jesus means for us to belittle our parents and hold their mistakes against them, but when it comes to how far we do what they ask, we have a commitment to honor our Heavenly Father first.
To put God’s word into practice is to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. To do justly is to be honest and fair. Most narcs don’t follow this rule 90 percent of the time. To love mercy is to manifest love and empathy for those who have wronged us and those who are hurting. And to walk humbly with God requires introspection and asking for forgiveness as we try to live out God’s lifestyle of other-centered love.
Another verse in the Bible mentions being unequally yoked together.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
For what do righteousness
and wickedness have in common?
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
-2 Corinthians 6:14
This illustration is a reference to the way oxen are hooked together to pull a plow. When they both wear the yoke, they need to work together while traveling in the same direction to succeed at the task.
Many pastors and counselors refer to this verse for those who are marrying unbelievers, but I would say it could be just as much a problem for two Christians who have opposing views on how to live the Christian life. In the same way, if we are trying to come together with family members who see things differently and belittle us for our political views or religious convictions, it will be very hard to get along. In many cases the narcissistic parent or sibling can be very abusive.
A prophet in the Bible put it this way:
Can two walk together,
except they are agreed?
Before we realized what narcissism is and how it operates, most of us tried many times to reach out in love to our parents. Like a little kid who keeps going back to the broken bubble gum machine to get a gumball and loses his quarter, we kept repeating the patterns over and over. But what we didn’t realize back then is we can never fix a narcissist no matter how nice we are and how hard we try.
The narcissist is fundamentally broken in the love department. He or she is stuck in survival of the fittest mindset and is willing to kill you (or at least your reputation) to save self. This lack of agreement is obvious when we try to refute the narcissist’s lies. Anyone who has ever been gaslighted, will confirm it’s impossible for two to even talk together unless they are agreed.
The Problem of Further Abuse
If we continue putting ourselves in such destructive situations, it will impede our healing. It can be very traumatic to keep dealing with angry and disappointed parents. Such fighting is bad for the health of everyone involved.
I find it interesting when people quote the fifth commandment and I like to offer them a couple Bible verses which most of them have never heard of before:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger
by the way you treat them.
Fathers, do not aggravate your children,
or they will become discouraged.
Do you think it would be fair to say that a father or mother who angers and exasperates their child to the point of discouragement is unequally yoked with their child? And as we know narcissism can be cruel enough to drive some to suicide and self-wounding because they feel no self-worth. These verses speak to the wounding that occurs from growing up with narcissistic parents.
Even worse, such parents have broken the third commandment by taking God’s name in vain and misrepresenting him to their children. In turn these children grow into adults who imagine God is like their abusive parents, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus Loves Children of all Ages
Many of us endured beltings and emotional abuse as children of narcissistic parents. Back then we were powerless and true victims because we had no power over our own lives. We were completely reliant on our parents for food and shelter, so we had no choice. Today we are adults and we are no longer victims because we can choose to separate from those who abuse us.
Jesus saw how we were treated as little children. He is fully aware of our wounding and scars. He shows great compassion and affection for little children and he has no less compassion for us today:
If anyone causes one of these little ones–
those who believe in me–to stumble,
it would be better for them to have a large millstone
hung around their neck and to be
drowned in the depths of the sea.
– Matthew 18:6
Why does Jesus make such a statement? If we believe Jesus lives out the non-violence he taught in the Sermon on the Mount, he is not threatening the abusers, but proclaiming the natural result of reaping what they’ve done.
When the narcissist has gone so far they have no remorse, Jesus is describing the futility of their existence because they have lost their capacity for love. I’ve heard people joke that when Jesus says “Suffer little children,” there are narcissists who make it their mission to make this happen.
The True Meaning of Honor
Yes, we can love those who do not love us, but love is manifested in many forms. Love is not indulgent and does not reward abuse. Love stands up for good things like right doing and honest living. And love most certainly stands up to bullies, but even more important love cannot be faked, but must be honest and honorable.
The word honor is married to honesty. They go hand in hand. There can be no honor without honesty. They are one and the same. So ultimately to honor our parents and especially our heavenly Parent, we must be honest.
Honor includes saying I will no longer allow you to threaten me or shame me or belittle my life choices because I sense no love in your attitude toward me. If you want to tell the truth and apologize for your lies and abuse, we have a starting point where we might agree and that would be a wonderful thing. But if you insist on your lies and abuse, the only way I can honor you is to let you go and honor my heavenly Parent.
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