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Most of us belong to families. What does the Bible say about family relationships, commitments, obligations, and responsibilities?

A question about honoring parents

Postby I Don't Know » Tue Apr 05, 2016 12:41 pm

I have a father whom I love, but he is abusive. Not so much physically but he certainly was, but definitely verbally and emotionally. He claims Christianity, but he and I disagree on many points. My mother left him, but has never divorced him and they have contact. My mother basically takes breaks from him (no outside dating or any of that) when she can't stand his provacation any longer. It is the same for us children. Basically i try to have a relationship with him, but he provokes me, and when i feel that I am going to yell at him or lose my temper, I cut off contact so i can cool off.

He quotes the bible when it suits him: Ephesians 5 "son i'm the head of the family, i'm like Jesus to you guys", "children must obey" and then asks to borrow money, or brow beats me if i don't agree that my mother is awful. He has shared things about my mother to me that I don't think a son needs to know, and he simply won't stop. I've asked him calmly to stop, he will then just say what he said before as if he didn't hear me. i explain that i'm to honor both him and my mother, and he dismisses that. He disowns me several times a year and it saddens me.

My question is: what are my obligations toward this man? Am i being a horrible son? My rationale is that if something provokes someone to sin, then it should be carved out. I take breathers from him so that i don't lose my cool and really hurt him. I hope that i've explained this well. I'd love to hear thoughts and discuss this. I appreciate it.
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Re: A question about honoring parents

Postby jimwalton » Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:11 pm

This is a very tricky situation. I'm sorry for your pain and your problem. We always think we should be able to expect better of parents.

I take the position that the command in Exodus 20.12 about honoring one's parents presumes that they are acting in a godly way. The command doesn't apply when the parents are mentally and physically abusive. Honoring one's parents is a key to social stability, and recognizing legitimate norms of authority is necessary for the success of society. The Bible teaches that all authority is delegated by God, and therefore is never absolute in and of itself. The idea behind the command is that godly parental authority on earth is a manifestation of God's goodness and authority in heaven. It's the same with government. But when government leaders turn evil, and when parents act in evil ways, God repudiates them. Giving honor is to say that someone is deserving of respect, attention, and obedience. A life that does not back up one's "honorable position" (parent, governor, policeman, teacher) is hypocrisy in the highest form, and honor is no longer appropriate.

We're supposed to honor our parents (who presumably are acting honorably) so that we learn to honor God (who is absolute good). If we learn how to rightly submit to just authority, it translates into our relationship with God. Parents are supposed to be the visible representatives of God for the exerting of authority that is righteous. But parents who act evilly lose the right to honor and are worthy of judgment.

In your situation, then, you are not a horrible son because you have been doing everything possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with your dad and to honor him. Don't blame yourself for someone else's abuse.

There is a book titled "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" (by Patricia Evans). She gives advice on how to appropriately and respectfully respond to verbal abuse.

1. Speak to him with authority and firmness that shows you mean business. It's not nasty or dishonoring, but it is assertive. Don 't ask him calmly to stop, but strongly.
2. Firmly assert yourself, with respect, by saying "Stop it."
3. Write a letter to your dad, expressing your desire to honor him, and that you want to have a good relationship with him, but that your responses to him may be different from what he is used to.
4. If your father gives you the silent treatment, after a while say, "I'm going to go where I have company and friends," and leave.
5. "So you say." Rather than argue or engage, dismiss weird ideas with this line.
6. Disengage. Leave the room.
7. "Stop accusing me and blaming right now. Stop it."
8. "I don't accept that."
9. "I don't feel supported when I hear that kind of talk."
10. "I'd rather not be hearing this from you."

The verbal abuser is destructive, irrational, immature, and trying to dominate and control. It is not a healthy atmosphere or relationship. It is important to remind yourself that giving honor is to say that someone is deserving of respect, attention, and obedience. A life that doesn't back up one's "honorable" words is hypocrisy in the highest form.

In addition,

1. Ephesians 5 doesn't say the father is the head of the family.
2. He's only like Jesus to you if he's LIKE Jesus.
3. Children are told to obey their parents "in the Lord" (Eph. 6.1). There is an assumption that the parent is acting "in Christ," and a child's obedience is an act of godly service.

I'm not saying to stop honoring your father, but there are ways to subject yourself to his abuse without dishonoring him. He may not see it that way, but I don't expect him to view life and your relationship rationally anyway. It sounds like he just basks in control and dominance, accomplishing that by verbal abuse. Some people will never changed. What you need to realize is that it's not your fault, and you aren't to blame. Often, unfortunately, the best strategy is distance. Leave the room, leave the house, come back later. But when he starts in again, firmly tell him to stop, and leave the room again. Don't give him a cowering audience.
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Re: A question about honoring parents

Postby I Don't Know » Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:13 pm

Thanks Shorts. First, in ephesians 5 it says the husband is the head of the wife, i took that to mean that the husband is the head of the family, or rather my father takes that to mean that everything is about him, not his father, but him.

Our relationship is actually via email. It was on the phone but his irrational yelling became unbearable. I tried to remain calm but he pushed me to the point where i'd have to disconnect. In person he doesn't trip out as much, (i'm a big guy and he's getting older), but i don't see him often. Email works because i can stop reading or delete before i do something i can regret. I'm just sad. My wife notices that even through email it has such a bad effect on me.

Your response was encouraging. Thank you.
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Re: A question about honoring parents

Postby jimwalton » Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:22 pm

It's very interesting (a fact that most domineering men don't notice) that the passage in Ephesians 5.21-33 starts with "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." No one is the big cheese. Submission is the call for all of us. Christ's view of relationships is mutual servanthood, not placing oneself as the "DO WHAT I SAY" guy.

Two verses later it says the husband is the head of the wife. The issue of headship isn't control, but responsibility. Christ is the head because he is the savior. It's interesting, then, that Paul continues to explain what he means by headship: lover her the way Christ loved the Church, give yourself in sacrifice for her the way Christ sacrificed for us, with the objective not of making her submit but of making her holy. Love her as you love yourself. That's what headship is, not "I'm the big boss and you do what I say." Sheesh.

Glad you're not there anymore. I have had some relationships with people who are verbal abusers. They're brutal and they tend to break me down. Very difficult. Glad yours is mostly by email now, but it still just tears at your heart, and makes you full of frustration, anger, and regret that it's not different than it is. It's a tough road to walk.
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Re: A question about honoring parents

Postby I Don't Know » Sat Apr 30, 2016 12:38 pm

I've had this exact conversation with my father, as far as it being a partnership with different roles, and the idea that he interprets that verse to mean he has the power, and i interpret as i have the responsibility. I did, however, 'miss' "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I need to be careful not to follow in his footsteps. Thanks much.

Last bumped by Anonymous on Sat Apr 30, 2016 12:38 pm.
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