What Does Honor Really Mean?

By: Pam Farrel

I am the firstborn daughter of an alcoholic man prone to physical violence, yet by the end of my father’s life I had a close relationship with him, and he came to know Christ. Because of this transformation, people often ask me how our relationship was miraculously restored.  

In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together, there are a series of simple tools and tips on how to move relationships from toxic and chaotic to healthy and whole. Let’s take a quick look at just one very vital relationship—your parents. God promises to honor you as you honor your parents. Ephesians 6:2-3 says, “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 

Much has been written and spoken about on what it means to honor your parents. If you dig into the actual word honor, it carries the connotation of ascribing value, showing respect or recognition that honors them for their worth or role in your life. Elect to be the kind of person who honors others instead of expecting to be the honoree. 

Even in the worst of case scenerio, you can choose to honor your parents’ role even if you cannot value their personal choices or lifestyle. Take it from someone who had a pretty chaotic home, sometimes it is the simple that points to the best way to honor. For example, four basic questions guided my choices toward my dysfunctional dad:

1.  Am I acting toward my parent like a healthy daughter would? 

In other words, am I behaving toward him in a positive manner not letting his toxic choices lure me into toxic choices? For example, if my dad yelled, I did not scream in return. He never sent birthday cards, gifts, or even called, but I opted to always call, or send a birthday card, usually thanking him for something positive I could think of. I wanted to be a loving person—even if Dad wasn’t.

2.  Am I modeling for my children how I want them to treat me? 

For example, if I want to be respected as I age, I should show respect to my parents as they age. As I write this, our home is on the market because we are moving closer to my husband’s aging parents. His father has become frail in body, but his mother has been emotionally frail for our entire marriage. My husband was raised by a mom, who because she didn’t deal with her family of origin issues, teetered between angry and explosive or depressed and detached. I have never had a “normal” relationship with her because fear has so gripped her heart and life that her world has become small and, most often, revolves only around her. Years ago, I decided I would choose to never be offended by anything she said or did because something inside her soul was so bruised that even the simple everyday tasks seemed overwhelming to her. 

3.  Am I building a strong, healthy, loving life? 

We honor our parents and grandparents by making good choices with our lives—even if they didn’t always make good ones. When we make an honest evaluation, and decide what traits were healthy, and which were unhealthy, then keep the healthy ones, we honor our parents by moving the family legacy forward.  

4.  Am I acting toward my parents like Jesus would act? 

This might simply mean asking yourself, “Am I acting loving, caring, and kind? At the very least, “Am I concerned for their eternal and spiritual well-being? 

At the end of my father’s life, he died sitting at a desk reading all the Christian books our family had given him. At the front of his desk was a framed tribute (or blessing) I had written to him. And when I read that same tribute at his funeral and laid his ashes into the ground, there was a sense of peace, love, and freedom, because I knew I had done all that I could to honor my dad, by becoming healthy enough to love him unconditionally—not for what he did, but for who he was—a creation of God. 

Pam Farrel is a contributing author of Just Between Us, an international speaker and author of 45 books, including her newest Bible study co-authored with Jean E. Jones and Karla Dornacher: Discovering Hope in the Psalms Pam and her husband Bill direct Love-Wisea ministry to enrich, educate and encourage people’s most vital relationships.