Friday, October 07, 2005


One of those Obligations without Measure

Tangentially related to some personal issues in my life and how friends of mine have responded when similar issues have arisen in their lives, I was thinking of the commandment to honor your mother and father, and how difficult this commandment proves to be.

Ignoring the obvious and oft expressed concerns about how to honor your parents if they are truly dishonorable people, even if one's parents are truly honorable, it is often difficult to really honor them.


Because one's parents are from a different time (and for many of us, from a different place) and hence it is hard to relate to what they say. Sometimes indeed our parents are just plain wrong about things. But sometimes we need to realize that our parents, in spite of how different they are from us, know a thing or two and their opinions ought to be given weight.

In some sense, the real difficulty, though, in following this commandment is not the difficulty of honoring your parents per se but of respecting yourself. Perhaps the obvious way to follow this commandment is to say "in spite of how dorky and out of touch my parents seem to be, maybe I should pay them some heed ... after all, they did raise me and somehow I came out OK". If you cannot honor your parents, that means at some level you cannot respect yourself: if your parents have produced one thing worthy of respect, then maybe their words are worthy of respect as well ... but if your parents have not produced anything worthy of respect, that means you have deemed yourself unworthy of respect.

That is why this commandment is so important. Your parents were stewards to one of God's creations -- you. If you cannot honor them, how can you respect the divine in you?

The problem arises when you run into folks with very, very low self-esteem -- who they themselves don't think they came out allright -- yet hold their parents in high esteem, whether or not the parents deserve it. I've seen this a few times.
True ... that does happen.

I guess I've just happened to run into folks with low self-esteem who blame their parents for their "failings" even as those failings are entirely imagined and their parents actually are wonderful, honorable folks who seem to have done a decent job of parenting.
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