How do you honor your parents if they didn’t do a good job of parenting you? How do you write a memoir that is truthful without leaving everything on a “down” note? I’ve spent some time thinking about this as I am going through the process of writing down my story.
I am compelled to be truthful and honest in my portrayal of the memories of my life but at the same time I want to find a way to honor my parents. Not because there is a Bible verse that says I should. Even though there is. Not because it is one of the Ten Commandments. Even though it is.
I want to honor my parents because I believe that every human life is considered and created by a loving God. I want to honor my parents because I wouldn’t be who I am without them. And I want to honor my parents because vindictiveness, meanness, and unforgiveness are not positive character traits.
By honoring my parents, I honor God. By telling the truth, I honor God.
I can do both. I see the concept of honoring my parents as more than just saying nice things about them. It’s easy to say nice things about people; it doesn’t cost me anything to do that. And sometimes, saying nice things about people means I am being dishonest. It’s easy to lie and say that my parents were great when they weren’t. And then I can check off on my list of ten commandants obedience that I did the right thing. Except that by “honoring” my parents untruthfully, I violated another commandant: don’t lie.
I must do both.
My understanding of honor is that it means to give something its proper weight. To me that means I should give my life and my parents’ lives a thorough investigation and evaluation: what happened to them and what happened to me? It should cost me something. I should be honest; and let’s be honest – my parents did a terrible job; not only at raising me, but at living their own lives. But why did this happen? Was it intentional? Should I forgive them? Can I forgive them? Have I forgiven them? Do I love them and have compassion for them, for the hurts they suffered, for the regrets in their lives? Do I understand that they were hurt by their own parents?
Who can I help by telling the truth?
As I pondered all this one day, I realized that the best way for me to honor my parents is to pay the great price of being the healthiest person I can be. The most honoring thing I can do for my parents is to rise above generational dysfunctions; to run a good race and go far. It would be easy to coast along in the hurts, fear, and shame that my parents instilled in me, but it is not honoring to stay stuck, and then because I am stuck to pass all that mess down to my own kids and grandkids. To honor my parents, I can carry the torch and hold it higher. I can overcome. I can break the curse.