The question people ask me the most is, “how do I honor my abusive parent?” This tells me that there is a real need for information on what honoring parents, especially abusive ones, really means, which is the purpose of this page.
Everyone knows Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (NIV) Merriam Webster online defines honor as “a showing of usually merited respect.” In other words, giving someone the respect they deserve in their position. Your parents deserve basic respect, such as not using or abusing them and being polite to them.
Honoring your parents does NOT mean tolerating any abuse they subject you to or doing whatever they say at all personal expense.
Honoring your parents also does not mean keeping your parents as your top priority over your spouse or kids. Remember Genesis 2:24? It says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (NIV) An adult is responsible first to their spouse, not their parents.
Honoring your parents also means accepting your parents as they are. I am not saying tolerate the abusive behavior, of course. I am saying when you have an abusive parent, accept the fact you have an abusive parent, or two as the case may be. Your parent is acting out of hurt, anger and God only knows what kinds of issues. When I realized that about my mother in 2000, it diffused much of my anger at her. I saw her as the pitiful, wounded person she really is. It also enabled me to think clearer about ways to deal with her, because I was not as bogged down with anger and hurt. (It was still there, but to a lesser degree.)
Another part of honoring your parents is to love them with God’s kind of love. His kind of love is not always the warm and fuzzy kind of love. In fact, you can love someone without liking them. God’s kind of love wants what is best for a person, even if they don’t want it. For example, someone addicted to drugs does not necessarily want to get clean. If you love that person though, you want that person to get clean, because it would be the best thing for him or her.
Another aspect of God’s love is having and enforcing healthy boundaries. Yes, even with your parents. Boundaries show someone what you will and will not tolerate, and do and do not accept responsibility for. Narcissists treat people as if they have no boundaries. They need to understand that is wrong, and that people can have boundaries. Whether or not they change as a result of your boundaries is not your responsibility. Whatever happens, it is still your responsibility to have them in place
This is a big one, and I know it can be hard to grasp at first, but please read it anyway. Sometimes, going no contact is the most honorable thing you can do with a narcissist, and that includes a narcissistic parent. When I was debating ending the relationship with my mother in late 2000, I felt strongly I needed to do it, but felt that could not be from God. I did not think no contact possibly could be honorable. Then one day, I heard God’s voice clearly tell me “Where is the honor in the strife that your very presence stirs with your mother? Or in being her target when she is angry?” I realized that was true. There was nothing honorable in any of that, so I wrote her a letter ending our relationship a short time later in 2001. We did resume our relationship for a few years starting in 2007, then later I went no contact with both parents in 2017, but that is another story. As painful as it has been being no contact, I also have felt so much peace about it. The time has given me time to heal, grown and learn without the distraction of narcissists constantly demanding my attention.
No contact also means an abusive parent no longer has the option to abuse their child. This means the opportunity for them to sin is gone in this area, which is honorable.
No contact also means that the abuser sees there are consequences for her actions, that she simply cannot abuse people and expect to get away with it indefinitely. That sets the stage for this to make appropriate behavioral changes. Granted, narcissists rarely change unless it benefits them in some way, but at least you encourage that to happen. What they do from there is not your responsibility.
Often, narcissistic parents use their children of any age as a distraction from their problems, especially marital problems. Without a distraction around, the narcissist is left with facing problems she did not want to face before. While that is a tough thing to do, it is also a very good thing. Going no contact got me away from the toxic and emotionally incestuous environment my parents created by constantly drawing me into their marital problems, and it forced them to deal with each other, alone, without me as a mediator. Or not deal. Whichever they wanted since it was their choice. Also, by me not being involved, they had one less excuse not to deal with each other.
I hope this article has helped you to understand what honoring your parents truly means.