What the Bible Really Says About Honoring Our Parents

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.
-Exodus 20:12

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.
-Luke 6:43-45

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.
-Ephesians 6:1

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?
-Amos 3:3

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.
-Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not aggravate your children,
or they will become discouraged.
-Colossians 3:21

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.

Survivor Girl God Took Me In,,

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10 thoughts on “What the Bible Really Says About Honoring Our Parents”

  1. Thanks Cherilyn for this wonderful piece of writing. I find it very instructive and compassionate for everyone all round. You have a real gift for viewing things from everyone’s perspective without compromising the victims of narcissistic abuse and also for explaining the Scriptures in such a way that can be adapted to one’s daily life. A very healing article. Please keep up the good work as I find it so helpful and nurturing.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Caroline! your kind comment made my day. I pray it will always be so! As I write a book about my childhood, I pray for wisdom and compassion for those who had a role in my story. Your encouragement means a lot! ❤ -Cherilyn


  3. Cherilyn,
    I pray that you will keep writing so that you may heal as well as instruct others. I was fortunate to grow up with wonderful parents, but I know of several others close to me who were not so fortunate. My parents always told us respect is something that is earned. You have woven the broken threads of your life into a tapestry that can envelope others in warmth and love. It is sad when one has to cut off a member of their family, but sometimes you have to trim a tree of a diseased branch in order to keep it healthy. May your own family tree grow strong . God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cherilyn, I am a newcomer here. One of my pet peeves as a Christian is when some ministers and laypeople use the bible and pulpit to divide. When religion is inclusive, it is at its finest. When it excludes it is at its worst. To my simple way of thinking, Jesus gave us the Golden Rule with no caveats. This simple rule of treating others like you want to be treated can be found in various forms in other religious texts.

    So, to me bigotry, demonization and hate should not be condoned nor should extreme actions like domestic violence or hate crimes. Bigotry has to be carefully taught from an early age, so we must do our best to shine spotlights on it.

    You are on the side of the Angels with your commentary. Keep it up. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Keith,
    I was just writing in my memoir about how my first religion was angels. I read it to my husband and then your comment popped up in my email. So I love and agree with all you said here, but that last line “You are on the side of the angels,” is a super nice affirmation. Thank you very much!

    Peace and freedom to you!


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cherilyn,
    This article is so incredibly true, and so incredibly well written. God has clearly gifted you in this area. I’ve also been led to begin writing about narcissism, which is spiritual in nature, with its root of extreme self-centeredness giving birth to bitterness, jealousy, lies and more. While it’s not my only focus at ‘The Silver Lining,’ it’s an area where I know people need healing and freedom, and I want to help people understand the damage. I feel your passion in your words for educating people about narcissistic abuse, and for putting your foot down against the spiritual abuse that often comes with it. I’m finding so many people are seeking and needing help. It’s so important to use scripture to help people find healing in this area, or they will only learn about what narcissism is, when they need to learn that God has answers and hope and healing for victims of narcissism. Thank you for sharing your articles with do many people. I also love your art! God bless you and your ministry, in Jesus’ name!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you Angela, for all your kind words. Yes, It does seem narcissism is a spiritual problem. As a child growing up with lies and gaslighting I have had to examine my entire history to find the truth and I am sad that some seem unable to see truth or examine it now while they can.

    The core of narcissism is selfishness which is also the core of sin. If only we had a simple test to help all of us see the truth.

    The two passages of scripture that I find best describe this is Isaiah 14 Where God’s enemy has a failed attempt to set his throne above God’s throne and Philippians 2 where Jesus lowers himself even to the death of a criminal. God’s character does not use power over us, while the enemy does.

    May God bless your beautiful blog as well! We are here to help each other and we are walking each other home.

    Here is where I have listed the steps of Jesus vs. the steps of the satan:

    Peace and freedom to you!



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