Thursday, April 10, 2008

How do you honor your parents?

What does it mean to honor your parents, and how do we honor or dishonor them? Having been raised in Asia, I understand that some of the specific practices below may not be applicable to the Western world which emphasizes individualism and unilateral decision making without regard to parental counsel.

1. Listen to parental counsel. There must be a willing spirit to receive instruction. You dishonor your parents when you do not consult with them on important life decisions. Do not leave them out of important decisions in life. Seek their counsel. You will be ultimately responsible for your decision, but at the very least, give them your time to listen to their concerns and counsel.

D. James Kennedy wrote,

In today’s world, some children don’t show honor to their parents because they are afraid their friends will call them a “mama’s boy” or a “daddy’s girl.” But you know there is nothing at all wrong with being a mama’s boy.

I think of a young man who wanted desperately to join the navy and see the world. He dreamed of being captain of a ship someday. What a thrill that would be!

His mother, however, was not thrilled by the idea of her son, who was just sixteen, going off to sea. She walked with him down to the port, and just as he was getting ready to leave, she said to him, “Son, I just have no peace about your going off to sea. I have prayed a great deal about this, and I really wish you wouldn’t go.”

What did this young man do? He said to one of the other sailors there, “I cannot sail off and break my mother’s heart,” and he went home with her.

He never became the captain of a ship, but he did go on to command an entire army, as president of the United States. The young man was George Washington, who had been taught the Ten Commandments as a child and knew the importance of honoring his father and mother.

2. Respect your parents. Treat your parents with utmost respect. Treat them as distinguished (even if you think that they do not deserve it). No parents are perfect. We are all fallen beings. But that does not give you the license to disrespect them. There are several ways you can disrespect your parents. Here are a few examples:

(a) You disrespect your parents when you keep silent, and tolerate insults on your parents from others.

(b) You disrespect your parents when you distort facts in order to cast a negative image on your parents while giving a positive image of yourself.

(c) You disrespect your parents when you speak ill of them to your friends. When someone belittles or demeans his/her parents, he/she is diminished himself/herself. And when a person excuses his/her failures by reciting the errors of a parent, I think the right response might be, “Grow up! If you can perceive the mistakes of your parents so clearly, you must surely be perceptive enough to know how to remedy them.”[2] Dr. Laura Schlessinger also says,

If they do not agree with or support everything we do, if they don’t shower us with a constant flow of affections and approval, they are bad and to be shunned, according to popular philosophy. I have been concerned for decades about the ultimate destructive impact of so-called therapeutic “confrontations” and the trend toward blaming one’s parents for all one’s current ills and problems.[3]

(d) You disrespect your parents when you do not call them by the proper designation of “mom” or “dad” or “mother” or “father”. Some children have called their parents names (such as “evil father”) unworthy of mention in this article. Call them by their proper designations. Dr. Laura Schlessinger laments that the loss of manners in addressing seniors. “No longer do we refer to people with the formal address of Mr., Mrs., or Miss. Remember when most of us were growing up, the idea of calling an adult by his first name was ridiculous? With the use of these formal forms of address, we learned that we did not treat adults in the same way we might treat other children.”[4] In Japan, respect is conveyed by bowing; in India and many Asian countries, it is conveyed by proper designation. No one would ever think of calling their father and mother by their first names.

(e) You disrespect your parents when you speak in a harsh tone of voice. Speak to them in a pleasant tone. I have heard of children or even adult children screaming at their parents. That is a NO, NO. Both your tone of voice and attitude of heart should communicate respect and honor for your parents.[5]

(f) You disrespect your parents when you (a boy) do not ask permission from a girl’s parents to date or court their daughter. Asking for permission is the minimum courtesy to be extended to parents who have raised their daughter and have given their life to her.

(g) You disrespect your parents when you (either you are a boy or a girl) do not ask their permission and blessing to pursue a life-long relationship with a boy/girl. In honoring parents at this stage the child should respect parental counsel, carefully weigh their judgment, follow their advice if at all possible, and be patient, praying for and wisely working toward a consensus with them. In the final analysis the child must make his/her own choices.[6] But the son or daughter who truly honors his/her parents will never make such a choice lightly. David Wheaton writes,

When you’re divinely dating, make sure you seek and listen to those who know you best and want the best for you, namely, your parents.

Most people strongly resist being under authority because it goes against our human pride. “I will make my own decisions; I will be the master of my own ship; I won’t let anyone tell me what to do!”

So they pay the price. Ask a divorced person sometime if their parents wholeheartedly approved of their marriage. My anecdotal poll says that the answer is invariably no…To the contrary, you will have a difficult time finding a divorced couple where both sets of parents gave their wholehearted approval.

Before you become so emotionally attached that it would be difficult to let go, make a special point to introduce the person to your parents. Spend time together with your own family. Spend time together with your dating partner’s family.

If after plenty of interaction your parents have major problems with your choice of a dating partner, you had better take their warning very seriously. To “honor” means you make every effort to obey. That is why I say get your parents involved early rather than a week before the wedding

(h) You disrespect your parents when you ignore their presence especially during public functions.

(i) You disrespect your parent when you do not invite them to your wedding.

3. Do not shame them. In Asian culture, you dishonor your parents when you shame them either privately or publicly, and one would never shame his/her parents before the extended family. In cultures where community solidarity is of extreme importance, care must be taken to avoid shame upon the parents, thereby incurring shame on the entire community. Dr. Laura Schlessinger says,

One should try not to embarrass or humiliate a parent in public. This might include not retaliating if your parent behaves inappropriately toward you. Always let a parent save face or give them the benefit of the doubt. It is the responsibility of any child, adult or otherwise, to remind the parent, respectfully and privately, of any duty for which the parent is responsible. The idea is to correct the parent without shaming him, even in private.

When parents refuse to be responsible, when they break civil and moral laws or jeopardize life and limb of innocent “neighbors,” you are required to stand between your parents and those laws or innocents
. [8]

4. Obeying them. Several clarifications are in order. First, there should not be “blind obedience” to a moral wrong. Disobedience, however, does not give you license to dishonor your parents. They are not the same. A person can disobey when parental demand contradicts a moral law, but the person can still honor his/her parents. Young people must, however, not be too quick to use the “moral wrong” to justify disobedience. Be careful to evaluate whether the demand is substantial enough for you to disobey. Many of the reasons given by young people may not fall into the category of moral wrong. Many of the complaints adult children have against their parents may simply be classified as “irritation” or “annoyance” which you need to accept as a reality of the parental challenge you were given. There are some parents who are violent, sexually aggressive, or emotionally destructive. Most of the confusions lie between “irritation” and “blatantly evil.”[9] When a parent is more pathetic than dangerously evil, it is healing to find safe and reasonable means of showing honor – a call, a card, or a visit. Perhaps those efforts might even result in an opportunity for a parent to express remorse and make attempts to repair their damage.[10]

Second, when a person is married, the obedience aspect of honoring is no longer operative because the person has established a new home where the husband is now head. But there are other ways of expressing honor to parents after you are married.

Third, children are not to be possessed with an attitude of stubbornness and rebellion. There are consequences of stubbornness and rebellion.

5. Not to curse parents. Dr. Laura Schlessinger says,

As children growing up, we yearned to be free and in control. By being the center of our own universe, virtually idolizing our whims and desires, we were frustrated by who stood between us and that power: our parents. In our internal struggle between our animal and potential human selves, it is easy to disdain and exaggerate parental faults, maximize negative moments, and so forth, in an attempt to eliminate the lessons, controls, and punishments...[11]

6. Not to treat parents with contempt.

7. Not to mock parents.

8. Not to treat parents as fools. You dishonor your parents when you think that they are stupid because you have a higher education than they have. You may have the IQ, but they may have higher WQ (wisdom quotient). Their wisdom will steer you away from many troubles.

9. Not to exert physical violence against parents.

[1] D. James Kennedy, Why The Ten Commandments Matter, 92-93.
[2] C. W. Christian, Covenant and Commandment, 133.
[3] Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 153.
[4] Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 136.
[5] D. James Kennedy, Why The Ten Commandments Matter, 89.
[6] Robert McQuilkin, Biblical Ethics, 287.
[7] David Wheaton, University of Destruction (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2005), 64-65.
[8] Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 157.
[9] Ibid., 159.
[10] Ibid., 162.
[11] Ibid., 145-46

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bringing Closure to a Fractured Relationship

What if you have gone ahead to marry without parental consent and your relationship with your parents are fractured? How do you mend that relationship?

First of all, both sides have to acknowledge that the relationship will forever be altered. It will not be the same as before. Both sides have to accept the reality of the situation, and move on with their lives.

Second, if you are have offended your parents, the best course of action is to visit your parents face to face, confess your "sins", and ask for forgiveness. If you are too "scare" to do it alone, bring along someone who knows both sides to be the mediator. The mediator is a neutral person who will help you mend the relationship, and bring "closure" to this chapter of your life.

Asian culture demands that children make the first move to come to see their parents. This is different from Western culture where parents make the move, and confess their sins toward their own children. Not so with Asian culture. In Asian culture, the burden of mending the relationship rests upon the children because Asian culture emphasizes "honor" and "respect" of parents no matter what kind of parents you have, or what they have done.

It is extremely important to mend the fractured relationship as much as possible. It will bring closure to a chapter of your life. Without closure to this chapter of your life, you will carry the burden for the rest of your life. It will affect not only your relationship with your parents, but also your children's relationship. What are you going to tell your children about your own parents? You must not deprive your children the relationship they can have with the grandparents. To do so will affect all future generations. Think seriously about the impact of your actions on future generations.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Marriage without Parental Approval

The fact of conflict between new parents and their own parents and in-laws is widely testified to in the different literatures of the world's cultures. Of particular note is the traditional Chinese culture. The struggles between the new wife and her mother-in-law are recorded in famous novels and are still being written in the family stories of modern times.

What seems ironic is that nobody thinks these family problems will occur in their family. But again and again family reunions become some of the bitterest times for families. One would think this tension would be hidden with the birth of a grandson. It is not. Let's think of why there is so much tension between new parents and their own parents.

If a couple seeking marriage wants to guarantee problems for their marriage, they should start by not getting their parents' approval for marriage. Young people are so naïve when it comes to understanding the importance of parental approval for their lives. Why is this so important?Marriage unites not only a couple but also families. It is not just one person and one person. More is at stake. Only the more mature person can see this. Parents are offended when their children decide marriage matters without sincerely seeking their agreement.

The young would be protected if they worked with their parents in the process of seeking a spouse rather than against them. This problem is made worse by the clash of modern ways with traditional ways to seek marriage partners. Parents no longer have confidence or understanding of how to properly relate to their children. Children do not expect their parents to have any real contribution to the process. This is a shame.

The intergenerational struggle is more clearly seen at marriage. If the young have pursued a marriage partner without their parents' approval, they have acted very impolitely and even foolishly before their parents. Instead of building up trust, they have given offense. The parents will disdain their child's decisions in the future. The grown child, meanwhile, will continue to ignore his parents' counsel. We can see that a wall of mistrust is placed between the newly married couple and their parents.

The young couple wrongly assumes that nothing much is wrong; time will heal all. They are very wrong in thinking that having a baby will make everything better. On the surface, this seems to be true. The couple is delighted in their child. The grandparents are happy for a new grandchild. But in fact, this scene will become the next showdown, a place of serious confrontation.We will not go into this confrontation at this point, but we do want to stress the fact that the harm from their unapproved marriage has not gone away. The only way to begin to unravel the bitterness is to confess one's foolishness, admit one's faulty judgment and ask for forgiveness. Some people have learned to forgive; others haven't. For those who have learned to forgive, they will forgive and the relationships will move on. Otherwise bitterness will stay in their heart as a long lasting enemy.

Before moving on, just think of the value of a parent and child seeking a spouse together. The parents would give valuable insight to the inexperienced couple. They would help protect the young from foolish decisions that he/she might not understand. Since the in-laws are part of the process, they would be honored. They would see that their child really treasures their insight. This would build up a strong trusting relationship.

Before marriage children must obey their parents unless the parents direct or force a child to do the wrong thing. In other words, a child should seek full compliance on everything in life even when it is not their preference.

Pause for Reflection: What do your parents think of your marriage? Did you ask them for permission? Did they agree? (Edited from (