In the first article, Honoring Narcissistic Parents!?!, we discussed exactly what honor means and, more importantly, what it does not mean (i.e. obeying them blindly.) Please read it before diving into this article; it sets the foundation.
In this article, we’ll figure out exactly how we can still honor narcissistic parents without compromising our mental health nor breaking “No Contact.”
What Others Are Saying
When I mentioned the topic of “honoring parents” on Facebook, many of my children-of-narcissists friends instantly expressed interest. It’s a topic they’ve struggled with themselves, consulted with clergy and finally made peace with. Here’s their take on the honor thing:
“I just truly came to the understanding that I didn’t feel that God would want anyone to treat me this way…no matter who they were….”
“You can honor them without letting them suck the blood out of your neck. You just make sure you reflect well on them but have enough sense to stay out of harms way and keep them from doing their number to your kids. I’ve seen this before: the problem is that the bad parents use the command to honor them as a shield to do evil. But the parents aren’t gods unto themselves. Honoring the parents – essentially by reflecting well on them , and helping them under nominal conditions – isn’t a blanket cover of permission for them to do evil.”
“This has been so very difficult for me. I honored my Dad for years despite continued abuse and neglect…Now, he doesn’t speak to me. The final insult. I have been a good daughter and even supported him and his new family…. So difficult. I have asked many this question, including pastors. I have never received a satisfactory answer.”
“I’ve been thinking about that whole ‘Honor thy parents’ bit. So hard to. A domestic violence counselor told me once, ‘You can honor your parents if you want to, but that doesn’t mean you have to obey them.'” (Author’s note: That’s a good point. Perhaps obeying our parents is one of those “childish things” St. Paul encourages us to “put away” in I Corinthians 13:11.)
“My Priest said, when she saw how much I was struggling with this, that a safe way of ‘honoring Thy parents’ when they have done mostly terrible evil would be to put them and the pain they have caused plus their eventually Salvation in God hands. Saying ‘God please handle this for me because I cannot. Amen.’ I ‘honored’ my parents when I was a child and it was very anguishing to learn to protect myself from their wrath and evil because I believed in God and wanted to honor God an therefore wanted to honor the commandments…. and it almost killed me. So I did need another way of looking at it… So for me what the priest said.. helped… I no longer honor my parents; I let God take care of them instead… Because I have a right [to] a life for myself.”
“Honor, love, respect or obedience are not automatically due to any human, it must in every case be earned. Nobody is obliged to participate in a one-way deal on this. We are told to honor our parents because of all the loving support and nurturing they have provided throughout our childhood, but in truth they taught us about honor, respect and love by their actions, and for me at least, my inability to honor them is a reflection of them never having honored me.”
“I honored them by stopping some toxic cycles and staying away from the people who made them toxic. I also forgave them over and over because they knew not what they did. I honor them by being sane and happy.”
Do We Dishonor our Parents by Spilling-the-Beans on Abuse?
No. We were only honest. We only revealed how they dishonored themselves and us. The dishonor is all theirs. We are to be commended for honoring them despite how they dishonored us through their abusive words and actions.
Somewhere along the line, Christendom went wrong. Instead of following Jesus’ example of calling out hypocrites and their evil actions as He did to the Pharisees of the 1st Century anno Domini, now we hush it all up, sweeping evil and abuse under the rug, chastising the person who speaks up instead of the person who did wrong.
Even pastors counseling victims shame them for being so “unforgiving.” They rush them and pressure them to forgive “seventy times seven” citing John 8: 7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Is this really what Christianity is all about — revictimizing the victim!?! I thought God was the Father to the fatherless, the protector of the down-trodden. (Keep reading!)
A New Angle on Honor
“Honor” is a concept that’s nearly gone from our society. In the olden days, a family was dishonored if one member became a horse thief. That’s one example. Another example is in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth tearfully tells Jane that their chances of making a good matrimonial match have been materially damaged by their youngest sister, Lydia, scandalously running away with Wickham and bringing dishonor down on the whole family. In one way, it’s a shame “honor” is disappearing from our society. On the other hand, I love how America was founded on the principle that each person is (or should be) judged as an individual based on their own actions, not the actions of their family.
My father made a very good point in Honoring Narcissistic Parents!?! when he said he honored his parents by taking good care of my mother and me, even though he was virtually No Contact (letters only) with his mother and father. But I’ll take it one step farther. We honor our parents…by being better than they raised us to be. We honor our parents by not acting out from all the abuse they heaped upon us, especially by not exacting revenge upon them. We honor them by reclaiming our mental health. We honor our parents by living lives that do not bring dishonor upon them. (But it’s not our fault if they dishonor themselves!) We honor our parents by being much better parents to our children than they were to us.
We honor our parents by being the person they should have wanted us to be, by being better than they were able to raise us to be. We honor our parents by being better than they have any right to expect us to be. We honor our parents by stepping away, going No Contact versus the alternative: lying and grayrocking in order to stay in contact only to eventually “crack” — screaming, yelling, cursing and punishing them for what they did to us.
One time my mother told me, if you’re ever abused, don’t stay silent. Get away and reveal the abuse. So I did exactly that. I honored her by getting away and telling the truth. And when she didn’t follow her own advice, I revealed what she’s been through too, in the hopes she would see the big picture and realize why she’s suffered so much.
Along the way, the narcissistic abuse I endured has been redeemed by Narcissism Meets Normalcy helping almost a million people.
God’s Special Love for Orphans and the Poor-In-Spirit
Too often the Bible is used as a weapon to shame victims and protect abusers. We’re told to honor, to love, to obey, to forgive. When we choose to make ourselves “orphans” by going No Contact we’re shamed for not caring for our poor, poor parents in their old age. Not one iota of empathy comes our way. Oh no! Everyone feels sorry for our parents. Those wonderful narcissists cursed with rebellious children “despite their best efforts to raise them right.”
Luckily, God has a soft spot for the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 4:3; literally “poor in spirit” in the Greek) and orphans. In Greek, the word ὀρφανός (orphanós) is defined “bereft (of a father, of parents); of those bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian; orphaned.” And we’re definitely bereft.
“…Thou art the helper of the fatherless.” – Psalm 10:14 (KJV)
“He doth execute justice for the fatherless and widow…” – Deuteronomy 10:18 (ASV)
Ye shall not afflict (take advantage of; exploit; mistreat) any widow, or fatherless child. – Exodus 22:22 (KJV)
….and the always beautiful verse…
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. – Psalm 27:10 (KJV)
You’re a good person, y’know. I’ve yet to meet a victim of narcissistic abuse who isn’t well-meaning, well-spoken and intelligent. We reflect well on our parents, better even than they deserve. In addition, most of us have helped our parents in every way, including financially, for many years. We’ve bitten our tongues and choked back angry retorts. Oh yes! We have honored our parents and still honor them by being adult children they can be proud of — even if they’re unwilling or unable to admit it.
But that doesn’t mean we have to talk to them nor obey them anymore.