How to Honor Your Dad When He Doesn’t Honor You
Many of us can recite the Ten Commandments with ease, recalling them from our Sunday School class, family Bible study time or vacation Bible school.
Obeying them, however, may be unequally effortless. Well, at least the fifth commandment:
“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
A fatherless child might ask: Really God? Do you really expect me to honor my father when he has abandoned me? Why would I honor someone who has never been a part of my life? How can I honor someone who loves drugs and alcohol more than he loves me? My mother is my father because she is the one who has been there for me every single day of my life! My stepdad is the one who cared for us; I’ll honor him. But my father? Never!
Have you ever exclaimed any of these questions or statements or anything similar? Maybe those are the Rated G versions of the intimate thoughts you’ve had, the feelings you’ve vocalized or the words you’ve inscribed in your journal or diary of a mad fatherless daughter.
I taught a lesson on the Ten Commandments several years ago to college students, several of which did not have a healthy relationship with their dad. Some of the comments during the discussion about the dads were dishonorable, but they were being honest and even though they didn’t realize it, they were admitting that they had a problem. (That could be a start to getting needed help.) A few of them had zero interest in honoring their father, but I realized pain was blocking their progress.
When you choose to hold on to the pain, you are . . . Wait for it . . . Dishonoring yourself! It’s a weight that you do not need to carry, so why weigh yourself down?
I know, you think staying mad at your dad is punishment for his wrongdoing, but how long do you plan to stay mad?
You deserve to live a happy, fulfilling life and not one that is consumed with anger.
God already knew we would have relationship problems, that’s why he gave us these commandments. The first four commandments refer to our relationship with Him and the fifth through tenth are about our relationship with others.
But like the others, when God gave us the fifth commandment, he expected us to obey them. He didn’t say honor thy father and thy mother IF they honor you. Or if they take good care of you.
When God gave these commandments to the Israelites, He knew they would need them. After the Fall, God made a covenant with Israel that He would restore mankind to relationship and fellowship with Him. He also gave them laws (the Ten Commandments) to follow which would demonstrate the Israelites devotion to Him and separation from sin. We know how that went for Israel. It was all part of his plan for salvation through Jesus Christ – the new covenant.
So now that we’re under a new covenant and have been redeemed from the law, does that mean we still have to obey the Ten Commandments? Absolutely! We are morally corrupt without them. Besides, Matthew 5:18 reminds us that … until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the strike of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law. And we find the fifth commandment repeated in the New Testament, Ephesians 6:2-3.
So how do we honor our fathers when he’s absent, unavailable or unattached? Now, I understand every fatherless daughter story is different and you may need to set healthy boundaries for some of these suggestions.
Six Ways to Honor Your Father
1. Speak well of him. I know, that’s a tall order, especially if he hasn’t given you reasons to speak positives.
2. Obey him. If you are fortunate to have interactions with your dad and to be in his presence, be obedient. Before you roll your eyes or place your hands on your head in frustration, note that this one is straight from the Word.
3. Do something nice for him. Maybe send him a card with a handwritten note. Say I love you and mean it.
4. Forgive him. Uh oh. I’ve probably gone too far now. I’m asking too much. Remember, forgiveness is about your peace even more than it is about your dad. Have you ever done anyone wrong? Did you want that person to forgive you?
5. Pray for him. “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:28
6. Be appreciative. There would be no you if it wasn’t for him, so be thankful for him for that reason.
As a fatherless daughter, how do you honor your father? If you don’t, what will you do to honor him in the future?