How To Honor Abusive Parents

It’s easy enough for someone to lay down the law about how a Christian should honor his or her parents.  But any given situation is not always as straightforward as it looks from the outside.  I know.  For the last ten years trying to understand how to honor my abusive parents as God would have me do has been my primary spiritual work.  I intensely long to live out God’s deepest truths in this.  Today (that’s all I can speak for at the moment) this is how I do it:

1) Forgive them.  There is no greater freedom I’ve experienced than laying aside the resentment from the injustice committed against me.  When more pain bubbles up I am blessed again with the freedom to forgive.

2) Acknowledge their importance in my life and the good things they have done for me.  The Hebrew word for honor is also used to mean heavy or weighty.  I am literally made up of the genetic code of my mother and father.  And while that thought mostly terrifies me, it helps to remember my parents were created in God’s image.  No sin they commit can change who God really had in mind when He made them.

3) Live the truth.  Keeping family secrets and living family lies is not honoring.  For me it is idolatry.  At this moment I am not able to keep in contact with my parents and still live in the truth.  One day, I hope I will.

4) Stand for justice.  I honor my parents by writing on this blog and by speaking out against child abuse.  My parents were abused children who had no one to rescue them.

5) Be an honorable person.  I try to live in a way that would make them proud if they were able to see things clearly, even though they don’t know about it.

 

How do you honor your parents?

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18 thoughts on “How To Honor Abusive Parents

  1. This issue of honoring one’s parents has been one of the hardest things for me to help people with in ministry. Two problems: 1) Many feel like forgiving their parents is letting them off the hook for damaging things they have or may have done. 2) Fear that if they forgive their parents and let them back in their lives, their parents will hurt their children (that is, the grandchildren).

    You might address these two things in one or two posts, if you’d like. You are on to something big here!

    Warren
    http://warrenbaldwin.blogspot.com/

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  2. A READER EMAILED US THE FOLLOWING COMMENT.
    WARREN, I’M NOT SURE HOW YOUR COMMENT DISAPPEARED.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SEND IT AGAIN. I’LL DO MY BEST TO WRITE MORE ABOUT THE ISSUES YOU BROUGHT UP.
    PEACE, LISA

    Hi,
    I left the following comment on a recent post (forgiving parents) but can’t see that it registered:

    This issue of honoring one’s parents has been one of the hardest things for me to help people with in ministry. Two problems: 1) Many feel like forgiving their parents is letting them off the hook for damaging things they have or may have done. 2) Fear that if they forgive their parents and let them back in their lives, their parents will hurt their children (that is, the grandchildren).

    You might address these two things in one or two posts, if you’d like. You are on to something big here!

    Warren
    http://warrenbaldwin.blogspot.com/

    Like

  3. my parents always hurt me… Not physically but emotionally. my mum practically drove me to to suicidal thoughts for years.Eventoday.

    But she means well… I know it. She is trying to help me get out of the ‘rut’ I am not in.. She honestly thinks im a failure and she wants to help me get ok again but honestly i was out of the rut(no thanks to her ) months ago and i am picking up my life again and I am happy but she doesnt see it. She still thinks im a gonner.

    I really want to please God by obeyin Him but what should I do?? how can I not make my mother and father feel sad?I moved out of home because of the pain and this hurts my mum very much… am i dishonouring them? what should i do? help?
    please…

    In christ
    Joanna

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    • I am in a similar situation. Both of my parents intestnly emotionally abused me and I am still not sure how far the phisical abuse went. (I have a bad memory from PTS) My mother has a similar stance on me, and I feel opt to shed some information that will help us understand the abusive parent. Because a pivitol step to forvigness is understanding of the other person. Most mothers like the ones you describe are secretly just as hard on themselves as they are on you. This sounds to a degree to be scapegoatism–a singleing out of one member of the family, usually a child and placeing unnecisary blame for anything and everything on him/her. Scapegoatism is usually a generational curse. And your mother is blind because that is how she grew up. You need to find out why you feel responsible for your parent’s feelings—something you can’t controll. something tramatic happened in your past that made you make the decision to do so, and in order to be set free, you need to ask God to show you what it is so you can forgive your parents and be set free of the vow. that is an unneccicary burden you don’t deserve or need to be carying. You are not responsible for your parents actions, and as such you will not be held accountable for them on the day of judgement: regardless of the fact they tremendously fear this, they will be accountable for their own deeds the day they stand before God. Not you. Irrational fears cannot be sofened by rational, you need to find the “bitter root.” It is not God’s will for you to be in a situation where you are constantly in emotional or phisical jeopoardy. Emotional jeopardy isn’t something to sugar coat, many times its worse than the latter. I hope this helped. These are all things I have learned because I am going through them too.

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  4. ((((((joanna)))))) – as adults we have the opportunity to transition from a relationship of obedience to our parents to a different kind of relationship – one of mutual respect – unfortunately some parents are not able or willing to let go of the control they once had over their now grown children

    you are not responsible for your parents happiness – you are not dishonoring them by having healthy boundaries and living independently – living a good life honors your true Father in heaven – maybe one day your parents will understand this but in the meantime let God guide you where you need to go

    God bless you!

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  5. I have forgiven my parents and siblings but I will not be in their lives and continue to take the craziness that comes with their emotional abuse. I love them and pray for them every day but I cannot continue to have them in my life on a daily basis. I hope God will forgive me for that.

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    • Dear Melinda,
      I’m sorry I gave the impression that honoring means continuing in an abusive relationship. It does not. I don’t have an ongoing relationship with my parents either but just like you I love them and honor them in my own way. Sometimes that’s all we can do. God bless you in your journey and thank you for stopping by.
      Peace,
      Lisa

      Like

  6. I’m a 60 yr old woman with 80 yr old parents. My parents have emotionally abused me all my life – up to and including now at every chance they get. I was physically abused by them (beaten) until the month before I married at age 18. It was nothing for my mother to slap my face so hard that she would leave her hand print or knock me down and kick me in the stomach and back over and over again. I’ve been hospitalized on several occasions. My father beat me with a tennis racket when he caught me kissing my date goodnight at age 17 and I was bruised, bloody, and left with two black eyes for the next three weeks – he also beat up the boy that kissed me. Everyone in our small town was afraid of Dad so they did NOTHING to help me and my brothers even though everyone saw our bruises and hear the yelling.
    The worst part of the abuse though, has always been their words. I was the only daughter and my nickname was not pumpkin, or sugar like my girlfriends’ – it was, “That Damn girl”
    My parents were well to do so I was dressed to the nines and displayed for the public to view – but behind the “Things” everyone in town knew I was being abused.
    To this day, when eating with my parents, my mother will tell me at some point, in her passive aggressive way, that I am too fat and shouldn’t eat this or that! I was a tiny little girl – smaller than most of the kids in my classes and yet my mother always told me what a fat, ugly slob I was and how she was always such a beautiful girl and women. She would also tell me that no man would ever want me but that men always fawned over her. (I’ve been married for 40 yrs BTW – to the most wonderful man in the world. Thank you God, because this man saved my sanity and my very life)
    Through the grace of God I’ve been able to forgive my parents for the physical abuse, and I would LOVE to be able to forgive their verbal and emotional abuse – but how can I forgive when every time I answer the phone they start in on me and it makes me want to scream? I truly want to forgive and forget – if it were just over and done with – but it’s not.
    I have now decided not to take anymore of their calls. I even put a block on my phone so that I couldn’t see them calling and it has given me a small measure of peace. The problem I am having is the guilty! When will the guilt go away? What kind of women blocks phone calls from her mother? Yet if when I used to take her calls I would end up speaking rudely to her and hanging up. Isn’t that worse? I just don’t know!
    I have friends that adore their mothers – they sit together at church and have lunch together… when I see or hear about these mother/daughters I just want to go to the bathroom and puke because I can’t even have a phone conversation with my own mother. (And for the record my Dad is far worse – he is truly a monster in human form – and that is putting it kindly)
    How do I deal with this guilt? Am I wrong for blocking their calls? How do I get to a place in my life where I can just live a normal loving existence with my parents?

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    • If I may be so bold as to offer you a gentle cyber (((HUG)))….I’m afraid that I can’t refer to you as your pen name suggests, to call you what your mom called you simply continues the verbal garbage…and that is what it is…. as you well know, verbal abuse destroys our sense of worth and dignity. A really good book regarding verbal abuse is “You Are A Door Prize Not A Doormat” by Dr. Jay Grady.

      I am so sorry for the pain and abuse that you suffered as a child….it was horrific and so unfair….and to still be dealing with it even today is incomprehensible…I applaud you for taking the stand that you have in blocking their calls~good for you.
      It is wise to be setting boundaries and not allowing this to continue…have you read the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend? It may help you in dealing with the guilt.
      I’ve learned that my personal boundaries are what define my identity. They’re like the property lines around a home. This is me — what I value, what I am good at, believe, need, feel etc — and I also know what is not me.
      Part of being a healthy adult (emotionally) is the ability to make decisions for yourself without feeling like you need every one else’s approval, or your mom’s approval and to tolerate their disapproval without getting undone….or feeling guilty.
      I read once that If we find boundary setting difficult, or we feel guilty in regards to claiming the right to state our truth, we are actually unclear about our identity. And if we are unclear about who we are, life and others will penetrate our boundaries and mold us into who or what they are….

      Have you ever spoken with a counselor regarding this? It helps to have a support network to help you with setting boundaries, getting stronger and walking in freedom….

      You talked about forgiveness…yes, you can forgive even though they are still choosing to be abusive…but notice I didn’t say that you can have a relationship with them, or trust them….forgiveness takes one, reconcilliation takes two. You forgive for you, not for them….because it frees you to be the bigger person and to set healthy boundaries….and forgiving is not forgetting either. The memories we have of the abuse may always be with us but the pain will lessen over time as Jesus heals…..and forgiveness is not easy….and it hurts deeply, very deeply…I don’t talk about forgiveness lightly…because it is often very difficult and most of the time it isn’t a one time thing either.

      You ask, “what kind of woman blocks phone calls from her mother”? My answer: A wise woman who is no longer willing to allow the verbal abuse and garbage to wound her…a woman who is choosing courage…a woman who is choosing to find healing for her heart and soul…who is learning that she is a woman of worth, a daughter of the King, a woman of dignity and value…a woman who is loved by her heavenly Father….

      There is so much more I’d love to share with you…perhaps in time…but to start with I’d really recommend the two books I mentioned earlier and also to find a support network such as a counsellor to walk through this with you…to help you be strong and give you godly advice…
      Please do keep in touch and let us know how we can be of help…
      Praying for you….

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      • Thank you so much for your kindness and healing words. You’re a balm to my wounded soul.
        I haven’t read the books you suggested but I certainly will! I am willing to do whatever it takes to get closer and move on with my life. I don’t want to hold a grudge against my elderly parents, I just want to move past it.
        Again, thank you for your kindness and for this blog where people like me can post and feel safe to write things outloud that are screaming in our heads.

        May God Richly Bless You.

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  7. AmigaMaria, yes, I like that ((((HUGS))) a beautiful name for a beautiful woman!! Thank you for reading along on my blog and for having the courage to respond….I will continue to lift you before our Heavenly Father as you continue on your journey of healing….I believe that you will find the heart and courage to move forward, to heal, as you face life’s darkest wounds…God is both with you and for you in this journey, Jesus holds out His hand and offers you His strength…I will pray as you continue to ask God for the courage to open your spirit and address the core of your brokenness and loss…don’t panic, bring your heart to the only ONE who can bring healing, and rest in HIs love for you….

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  8. I am so glad I found this post. We must all love and support each other in Christ.

    I am a 19 year old young girl still living at home with my mother and step father. I do not believe my mother ever felt good about herself or her life because she has suffered a great deal of pain that I don’t believe she has even remotely come to terms with. In 2008 she married her third husband (the second was my father, the first was my sister’s father). She didn’t really give me an opportunity to adjust to the changes – she was so adamant about marrying this man, basically leaving me completely out of the equation. They sometimes behaved and talked to each other slightly sexually in my presence, to which I would cry in protest. I distinctly remember both my mother AND my stepfather blaming me for my own sadness and discomfort, and saying that I am the devil in human form trying to steal their joy and infect their marriage. Yes they did.

    Sad as it is, to this day I largely live my life as if there’s something wrong with me. I blame myself for things I shouldn’t blame myself for. God has given me the grace to realize that I deserve to live a happy life full of love and abundance. But it’s so hard to forgive them, especially considering that I still live with them. I feel a strong bitterness against my stepfather. He has overstepped his boundaries, causing me such deep pain and turmoil. I know I have to forgive them, as the Bible says. But I truly do not know where to begin. I’m bleeding so much because of my mother’s inability to parent me adequately from the beginning and because of the fact that she emotionally abandoned me in favor of her current husband. Please help??

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    • Kim, you are very mature for a 19 year old. You perceive and understand what is really happening about you. It seems like unfortunately what you know and what you feel don’t always match up. it must be very difficult to continue to live in such a difficult situation.
      May God give you strength and peace to make it through to better days. please know that a better future is out there for you, a chance to build your own family based on love. i pray those days come quickly.
      Love from tearsinabottle (Lisa)

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      • Thank you so much for your response! It’s been a month since I posted this and I truly stand in AWE at what the Lord has done for me in my own heart. I’m stronger, more self-assured, more dedicated to love and truth. We serve a MIGHTY God!!! And it’s my absolute pleasure to visit this site 🙂 God bless you in abundance!! He is using you to change lives. ❤ xoxo lol

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  9. I search often for posts or articles on how to honor my mother. For my whole life I felt like I needed to make her happy, and that if I was just better, prettier, skinnier she would like me. I knew that she wasn’t “right” but I didn’t really have much to compare her too… until I got married, and finally really felt the love of Christ through another human being. My mother behaves as though she hates me: Spreading lies, name calling, and I have cut off contact with her to spare myself, my marriage and my children. But still, I hear the message over and over that forgiveness = letting her hurt us, and I wonder who these people are/where they have been that gives them the right to try and inflict that guilt. I am thankful for you, your post, and the comments. I am working on honoring my mother in my own way, it’s just that finding that way is hard, and I’m always afraid that I may be crossing an invisible, punishable-by-death God-line somewhere. I guess I fear unforgiveness and am always trying to root it out. Does that sound crazy? It has to do with honoring parents being the only commandment with a promise. I don’t want my life to be short because I could not tolerate being close to my mom. And I can’t tell if that fear is warrented, or just the result of years of being taught that anytime I disagree with her I am in the wrong. I know that letting her poison my marriage and family is wrong, I just want to find peace in my decision… decisions are incredibly difficult for me.
    Thank you again.

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    • Dear Jenny. I completely understand the confusion you’re now experiencing. First of all, we need to know that our Father does not will for us to become slaves to another person’s wrath and emotional/spiritual issues. Forgiveness is not, as we so often believe, allowing somebody else to continue abusing us. There are many wonderful ways to define forgiveness but the one that worked best for me is consciously deciding to no longer allow what others have done to us to define who we are and our future. We NEED to know who we are in Christ. There are no words powerful enough to stress the importance of this. He wants us to be strong, self-assured, and as much as possible surrounded by love and peace. Read Romans 8. It’s my personal favorite chapter in the bible because it assures us that when God is fighting for us, we need not fear.

      Listen to me: You are NOT crazy. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with the steps you have taken to protect yourself and your family from your mother’s negativity. We must be as wise as we are loving; and that includes being aware of any trace of negative or ungodly influence. Be that as it may, in the meantime God wants us to develop His character and to be completely transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). And that, dear Jenny, means putting off fear and bitterness, and putting on love and a strong will to do good to others. Your mother is presently struggling with issues of her own that corrupt others’ lives. Pray for her. And continue to do good for her whenever you can. For as Romans 12:21 instructs us, we must not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good 🙂 What a beautiful and powerful concept!

      Christ died to give us LIFE! And that we may have it in abundance! (John 10:10). Oppression, guilt, fear, and anxiety is not living life in abundance – it is actually its opposite. Trust God to set you free. Have confidence in Him. Have confidence in the power of your own heart and the Lord will SURELY bless you, your mother, and your family! 🙂

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  10. Hi
    All of these comments resonate with me too.
    For many years, I struggled with my parents behaviour towards me.
    Then mother passed away and the whole dynamic of the family changed and became toxic.
    For all the years following her passing, I knew there was something wrong, that something was going on behind my back within the family.
    It wasn’t until father passed away recently that the truth of what had been going on was revealed to me.
    I was scapegoated and cursed by father and my younger sisters.
    After much counselling and spending time praying and reading scripture, I decided to write about my experiences.
    I am writing under a pseudonym because I do not want to dishonour mother and father.
    But I want to share my experiences to help visitors to my site.
    I feel that had I read blogs and posts about abuse, I would not have spent so many years of my life trying to deal with this on my own blaming myself.
    http://www.mylifestartshere.co.uk

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