How Can You Honor Parents That Are Hard To Honor?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How is it possible to honor your parents if they are bad parents or less-than-honorable?

The Ten Commandments

By now, the Ten Commandments have been removed from most public places, but God never removed them, and they are still as much in effect today as they were in the day in which God wrote them. It doesn’t matter if people see them or not; they know better, but there is a huge difference between the Mosaic Law and the Ten Commandments. One was permanent while the other was only until Christ came. One was written by the very finger of God and in stone, indicating their permanence and the other was written by Moses and would only last until Christ came, so to believe that the Ten Commandments are no longer in effect is to believe that God now permits adultery or murder. Of course that’s ridiculous. The Ten Commandments were given to Israel, but they were written for all of mankind and were observed in Jesus’ day and during the early days of the church. In the Book of Revelation we are told, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev 14:12), so the saints keep the commandments of God…while the “aint’s” do not. This doesn’t mean Christians are sinless (1st John 1:8, 10), but they should sin less than they did before, but there will never be a time when murder is permitted or adultery is acceptable to God, so we can’t do away with the commandments, since Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt 5:17). Jesus never broke one law in His life and kept the law because we could not, and He says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21), so we can’t excuse ourselves from striving to obey God’s commands, meaning Jesus’ commands too, since He is also God.

Honor All People

When the Apostle Peter said, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1st Pet 2:17), I’m thinking, “Wait Peter….the emperor is murdering Christians? How can we honor everyone, including the emperor? It’s easier to honor the brotherhood, but the emperor? Really!?” The Apostle Paul adds, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom 13:7), and again, Peter adds, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1st Pet 2:13-14), and he later adds, “honor the emperor (king)” (1st Pet 2:17), which at that time were wicked Jewish kings who sat as puppets of Rome, and were in many cases, not even Jewish. Maybe the point of all this is that God places those whom He wills in authority, and by honoring them, we are honoring the God Who put them there. That’s just what Paul writes about in Romans 13:1 where he said “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God,” and we should give “respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom 13:7b). If we are to honor those who are less-than-honorable, what about our parents who might have been hard to honor?

Honor Your Parents

I remember hearing a gossiper at a funeral be rebuked by my aunt because they were saying evil things about a deceased friend. She said, “It’s not good to speak ill of the dead,” and she was right. It seems a terrible thing to speak badly of a person, especially at their funeral and to others who are attending. As my aunt did, others might overhear and that’s not pleasing to God at all. As you can tell, I never forgot that, and at the funeral, they did honor this close friend of my aunt’s and it was a beautiful funeral. Could you imagine if the person giving the eulogy dug up all the dirt they could find and just assassinated their character in front of everyone, even though it was all the truth?  Most people would be outraged and they’d have every right, so with this in mind, we can honor parents that were not good to us or parents that misused us, but what about those who were sexually or physically abuse? That’s where God must step in, because it’s never going to be forgotten and so they will need God’s supernatural help for them to forgive their parents, much less honor them. When I spoke ill of my mother once, I had such a guilty feeling all day that I was almost sick to my stomach. I thought, “I deserved that…the way I dishonored my mother.” Today, I believe she is with Christ, but even after our parents are gone, we can honor them by thinking of the good things they did and living out the principles they taught us. My parents never uttered “I love you” until we were all grown, and that hurt, but I know they loved us, and I later found out that they had a very hard life as a child; harder than mine, so I learned to forgive, or actually, chose to forgive. For me, it’s much easier to forgive when I look in the mirror. I consider the fact that Christ died for me, the ungodly, wicked, man I was, and this while I was still His enemy (Rom 5:6-10), so if Jesus did that for me, how can I not forgive my parents and show them honor, dead or alive?


Yes, it is hard to show honor to those who don’t seem to deserve it, but its honoring God when we honor His law and He says, “Honor your father and your mother,” and the promise is “your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12). If you find it hard to bury the past, try this. Take out all your heartaches from childhood, especially concerning your parents, and write them down on a piece or pieces of paper. Next, find an old shoebox or smaller box made of cardboard (biodegradable), dig a hole about 2 feet down (under a tree perhaps), and bury it! Have the funeral. Stop what I had to stop; and that was tripping over what was behind me. Honoring our parents is a command that comes with no conditions, like “if they were good parents” or “they told you ‘I love you’” all the time. God’s love was not merited on our goodness so we must not merit a person’s honor based upon theirs. Honor the king, pray for our leaders, and honor your parents, even if they’re not that honorable. Just look at me…and look at yourself. That will make it easier to consider others better than yourself and myself (Phil 2:3).

Read more about honoring parents here: 10 Ways to Honor Your Parents

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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