What We Can Learn From Honoring Our Parents

As finite beings inhabiting time and space, our survival has been dependent on a particular ritual. Animals perform this ritual instinctively, but for other beings with superior cognitive abilities such as humans, we find that we can exercise some choice in the matter. The ritual in question is one involving the passing of one’s characteristics, traits and values on to the next generation through sex and ultimately through parenting. Parenting typically begins with the act of reproduction and continues for as long a both the parent and the offspring are alive. Much like the lion, who for example, gives birth to cubs, ensure their survival, and teach them the ways of the hunt, so is it for humans vis-à-vis their offspring. It is on this basic principle of survival, and in the case of humans, thriving, that all societies throughout time have observed the fundamental practice of “honoring your father and mother.” But what does it mean to honor your parents?

“Parents, in essence, serve as the template by which we perceive and interact with God.”

The dictionary describes honor as holding in high respect; or to accept as valid and conform to the request or demands of. While animals are not thinking creatures like us, the benefits of honor or “obedience” towards their progenitors are obvious when observing them in nature. Regardless of their positions in what we call “the food chain”, all offspring, if they are to survive against the various threats of life, must rely on the protection and wisdom of their parents. Those who stray from their parents, much to their detriment, often meet deadly ends. As it is in nature, human newborns depends entirely on their parents for survival, and when they are of an age where they can provide for their own nourishment, their future survival is often dependent not merely on food, water and shelter, but on the wisdom on how to navigate through life’s many potential pitfalls.

While these notions may be obvious to most, it is another that I offer this day. As humans, I believe that the ultimate role of parents, knowingly or otherwise, is to prepare their offspring, us, for living a life in concert with our true progenitor, God. Parents, in essence, serve as the template by which we perceive and interact with God.

This is an important concept to understand for many reasons.

First, if we’re being honest, we’ll admit that no matter how old or independent we get in life, there is always something elusive that we require in order to attain peace and happiness that we simply cannot provide for ourselves. And so, we are ALL, to include our parents, children to the being that created us because of our perpetual need of protection and guidance in navigating this life.

Second, if we take a moment to ponder on the matter, I believe we will find that our ease or difficulty with establishing or maintaining a relationship with God, has much to do with our own perception of interactions with our earthly parents. What I mean is this; our earthly parents are imperfect. In fact much like us, they are children in the eyes of God, constantly growing, stumbling, and learning. Therefore, they are going to mistakes from time to time, and all of those interactions, good or bad, will heavily impact our view of what it means to be loved, to be supported, included, to feel safe, physically, emotionally and psychologically. These feelings, or views, will greatly determine our outlook on life, and ultimately the attributes that we readily accept or refuse when it comes to God.

For example, if we perceive that the love and support we received from our parents was present in our lives regardless of our irresponsible behavior, we will have a much easier time understanding and accepting God’s unending and eternal love. It is also the same of the opposite.

Another way to understand the impact of our relationship with our parents in our lives comes in the form of responsibility and duty. In Ephesians 6:2 and 3, God, our ultimate Father and parent, gives us this precept: “Honor your father and mother, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” In these verses, God reminds us that our parents have their job to do, and we, our own. Our parents’ responsibility is to represent Him and his characteristics to us as children to the best of their ability. On our part, our duty is to hold our parents in the highest regard, and to accept them as valid and acquiesce to their requests or demands regardless of their faults and shortcomings. This duty, like any other, comes with a reward, and it is that things will go well for us, and we will enjoy a long life on the earth.

Although it may not be readily obvious, the truth is in fact that God provides us this commandment for our protection. For one, it allows us let go of much of what we perceive as negative memories or interactions that comes from our parents due to their shortcomings. Essentially, it teaching us not to pass judgment. A beneficial principle that avoids us much pain and suffering in the long run.

Second, it makes us resilient, keeping us open to new possibilities, people, relationships and experiences. In other words, it helps us to remain optimistic about life.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, God’s teaching protects us in keeping us in the habit of trusting and coming back to Him. Long after we leave our parents, we will have and need a relationship with God. This understanding of honoring our parents in obedience to God, in spite of our perception that we are being hurt, punished, neglected or abandoned, will ultimately put us in an advantageous position of love, growth, and peace. This is similar to the relationship of an infant with his parents. The infant has an innate knowing that regardless of the circumstances, his happiness, relief, and comfort lies in running into the arms of his parents. And in fact is is true. Their literal livelihood is dependent of provisions from their parents. So is it true with our heavenly Father.

The relationship between parents and offspring is a vital one. Not only to the immediate survival of mankind but most importantly to the long term growth and development of each and every one of us with regards to our Father and Creator, God. For in every sense that matters, complete dependence on God is the ultimate form of survival.

Parents, be sure to love your children, for within that love will you always know just what to do.

Children, honor your father and mother, and you will find your life to be one of abundance, love and peace.

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