7 Practical Ways to Honor Your Parents
Smack-dab in the middle of the Ten Commandments are these very direct words from God concerning our parents.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving to you. Exodus 20:12
All the commandments are important, but this is the only one with a promise attached to it. That’s so interesting, isn’t it?
God tells us to keep the Sabbath holy, keep ourselves faithful in marriage, worship no other, speak truth, use his name respectfully, be content with what we have, let others keep what belongs to them, not to make idols and not to murder – all very weighty sins, and yet, only when God speaks of how we treat our parents does he promise a reward.
For some, this is an exceptionally difficult command to fulfill. If you have a dad or a mom whom you feel is hard to honor or seems so undeserving of it, you might really, from the gut, all the way from your head to your toes, bristle at these words.
You read this commandment, you know these words are from Almighty God who never wastes a dot or a tittle, and yet you’re instantly looking for a caveat. But there’s just not one. In this verse where we’re told to honor our father and mother, there is no exception for absent, mean, ill-prepared, inattentive or otherwise difficult parents.
If you have a father and a mother, you are commanded to honor him and her.
For you to move on to the fun part of this blog post, you have to be convinced that you can do it! You have to know that you should honor your parents, and that you can honor them, whether or not you think they are worthy of it. So, here’s the key.
“Respect is earned; honor is given.” – Randy Phillips
God did not command us to respect our parents. We’re not expected to keep a tally of the good and the bad that they do, weighing it all on the scales of respect, finding them fruitful or faulty, and then honoring them if they deserve it.
It’s their position in our lives that demands our honor. Our gratitude for the life that is ours is the impetus for the honor that God says our parents should receive.
If you struggle with adhering to this commandment, try thinking of it this way: In many ways, this is a command to honor all parents, because in bestowing honor upon the one, there’s a ripple effect that honors them all. People who honor the position of a parent are people who desire humility, integrity and peace in their lives. Just think what impact you can have for generations to come when you humbly honor the ones who gave you life, just for the peace it brings you to do it.
Here are 7 practical ways to intentionally show our parents the honor which God requires that we bestow upon them.
Establish routine communication.
Our parents grew up in a world where phone calls to their parents were made on Sunday nights, when long-distance usage was at its cheapest rate.
Because of the routine, they kept pads and pens on the shelf beside the rotary phone so they could make notes for next week’s call. Dinner was served and dishes were done in time for the Sunday night call. Everyone in the house knew that when that phone rang, the next 30 minutes were going to be spent in the sheer joy of connecting across the miles.
Today, most of our parents who are over the age of 70 can become a little hesitant to be the ones to initiate phone calls. It’s easy for them to feel like they’re taking too much of our time, or that they should have had an agenda for the call, and they might think they don’t have enough information to really justify it.
Truth is, most of the time, our parents just really want to hear the voices of the ones they love more than anyone else in the world – that’s us! They want to hear us talk.
Whether your parents live across the state line or just across town, honor your parents by calling regularly, keeping a routine schedule that allows you at least 30 minutes to talk and listen, and occurs at a comforting time for them. Sundays nights, for some reason, are a really good time for them to talk, but if noon on Friday is better, they won’t care.
Use your cell phone app to make notes of things your parents would want to know. Plan to tell them about the good parts of your day, and don’t add a burden to their shoulders with too much negative. Ask them to pray about something specific, but be careful not to unload tubs full of super-weighty issues. These routine phone calls should mostly be just for the fun of connecting.
One friend calls her mother every night at 8:00. Many times, absolutely nothing has changed since their conversation the night before, but when goodbye is said, the daughter knows she has honored her mother, and her mom has something to look forward to the next day.
Protect their reputation.
All of us have skeletons in the closet and baggage from the past. For some of us, it’s just normal “stuff.” For others, this could include some pretty difficult experiences involving our parents.
Protecting your parents’ reputation doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice being transparent about things you’ve worked through. It just means that when you share, you balance the bad with the good. Protecting how the world sees them is a huge way to honor their God-given position in your life.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a spouse who listens and doesn’t mind talking things through, you can work through a lot of your “stuff,” and if you also have a trusted friend who enjoys a good “hashing-out” session, you are one who is doubly blessed.
If not, just pay the fee and go to counseling. It’s important to unpack the baggage and not sweep our dirt under anyone’s rug. Why? Because if we don’t talk it out, we won’t work through it. And if we won’t work through it, we can’t ensure that we won’t perpetuate it.
For believers, this is a huge opportunity to apply the wisdom of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, and to remember that there’s always a “but.”
Maybe your story reads like this: We are (you were) afflicted in every way (by parents who were abusive toward each other), but not crushed (because God protected you through it all); perplexed (you had no clue what to do to help), but not driven to despair (somehow you knew God was with you); persecuted (you felt so different from all the other kids), but not forsaken (God provided good friends and a nurturing church family); struck down, (the struggle was so daily) but (you were) not destroyed (because you have not let a root of bitterness grow in your heart).
For so many of our parents, the everyday joy of their lives is highly dependent on the food they eat! When you go visit, plan to cook a meal, or take them out and be the one to pick up the tab.
Other great food ideas: Send a box of Freshly meals right to their door or set up a monthly bacon delivery from Amazing Clubs.
If you really want to honor them, tell your parents to give you the deadlines on their restaurant coupons and then calendar some dinner dates to use them. When they provide the discount, but you pay the ticket – oh, man, parents can live on that memory for a good solid week!
Make a big deal out of their birthdays.
Do your parents enjoy outdoor fun with a picnic and cupcakes, or would they prefer a cozy evening at home with pasta and homemade Italian Creme Cake?
If this year is one of the big ones for your parents, plan a big celebration with lots of fun and games. Check out some great ideas for big birthday years here. If your parents are coming to Austin, here are some more ideas for entertaining them on their birthday weekend.
If all the grandkids can’t be there, plan for some FaceTime conversation or a flower delivery that arrives when the presents are being opened. And just like when our children were in kindergarten and we took birthday cupcakes to their home room class, our parents would be happy to share a box of Tiff’s Treats or Austin Cake Balls with their bridge, bunco, Bible study or golf friends – in their honor, of course.
Take them to doctor’s appointments.
Hard, yes. Time-consuming? Definitely. Important? Immensely. If your parents have each other to lean on, what a blessing! However, if one of your parents is arranging and attending medical appointments on her own, what would honor her more than for you to pick her up, Starbucks in hand, drive her to the appointment, fill out the paperwork, visit while you wait, and then talk about the results afterward? Not much can top the ways a parent feels honored when we take the time to do something unpleasant with them.
Filling out the paperwork, scheduling follow-up exams, and remembering everything the doctor told your parent can be a little stressful for your mom or dad. Shouldering it with them is a huge way to show honor and compassion.
Get along with your siblings.
Since the first two brothers, Cain and Abel, the possibility and the reality of sibling rivalry has existed. When we get along with our brothers and sisters, our parents are not only happy, they’re honored. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give our parents. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV)
Our three kids are as different as they can be from each other, but they get along. Before the middle got married, they planned their own 3-day sibling trip to California. As you can imagine, when they told us they were going to do that, our hearts swelled! Of course, their motive behind the trip didn’t really have anything to do with us, but if they had asked each other – what can we do to honor Mom and Dad? – I can’t think of anything that would have done it more.
Do it better.
Pastor Randy Phillips likes to motivate his people to greatness by admonishing them to “just kick it up one.” If your marriage is a 1 and you wish it was a 10, just work on kicking it up to a 2, he says. Just do it better.
From Andy Stanley to Lance McCullers, Jr., those who have followed in their parents’ footsteps and ramped it up a notch have, in terms of honor, knocked it out of the park.
AP Photo – David J. Phillip
To acknowledge the sacrifices made by our parents and to make sure their investment in us yields a good rate of return – this is the stuff that tips the scales of honor in their favor.
What are you actively, currently, purposefully doing to honor your parents these days? Are you helping them learn to use a new phone? Are you sitting beside them in church on Sundays?
Whatever it is, just kick it up one.
Encouraging intentional adventure and a little tipping of the honor scales,
PS – Do you have some special things you do to honor your parents? Please share your comments below.