Five Keys to Unlocking ‘Dadly’ Honor
I love Father’s Day because it gives us the chance to tell our dad’s how much they mean to us. One thing I like to do every year, is pick out the funniest card I can find and write a heartfelt letter verbalizing all the things I love about my dad. I want to take a few moments to honor my dad by sharing an excerpt from this year’s letter (with his permission!):
The older I get the more I realize what rare gift it is to have a dad that so selflessly and endlessly provides and actively guides his children through the various seasons of life. I know things haven’t been perfect between us, but there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to relationships. I want you to know that no matter how grown up I become I will always see you as my dad whose strength, provision and leadership are so needed to bring safety and comfort to my inner child self. I am truly grateful to God that He assigned YOU as my dad during this precious and short time we have on earth. The standard you have set in your loyalty to mom, dedication to your work and active involvement in our lives all these years are influences that have shaped me in positive and profound ways–more than you’ll probably ever know….
Honoring our parents is the 5th of the ten commandments in the Bible, but the first commandment with a promise attached to it: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12, see also Deuteronomy 5:16).
This is basically saying that there is blessing from God that comes to us as a result of honoring our parents. But you might be saying, “Yeah, but what if my parents aren’t honorable?” Perhaps you are like my friend who recently shared with me her struggle in how to honor her dad, whose moods and hot temper were difficult to handle. She said, “I know God commands us to honor our parents, but how do I do that when his behavior makes me so angry all the time?” Perhaps you can relate in having a father who is difficult to get along with, abusive or even absent from your life. What then?
One thing I am learning with my own relationship with my dad, is that God’s commandment still stands regardless of who our dad’s are, how they treat us and how well they have fulfilled their ‘father’ role. It is a hard truth to swallow, especially when there is abuse and/or abandonment involved. But when we truly seek to obey God in honoring our parents, I believe He will show us what that looks like in our own situations.
It may sound from the letter above that my dad and I have got the whole father/daughter relationship thing figured out. But let me assure you, we have had our ups and downs just like anyone else. There were years of distance and frustration between us due to things like personality clashes, different emotional needs, unrealistic expectations of what our relationship should look like, among other things. I often was tempted to throw in the towel and give up and I am sure he was too. Honoring someone from whom you feel worlds apart is not easy.
But over the years God has shown me the tremendous impact and power honoring our parents can have in our lives for years to come and even on into continuing generations. And here is a little secret: honoring our parents has nothing to do with them! No matter who our parents are and what they do (or don’t do) to us as parents, we are called to honor them anyway out of obedience and reverence to God.
Here are a few keys to unlocking the honor due to our dad’s, regardless of how well they have fulfilled their father duty. They have had a transformational effect on my relationship with my dad and it is my prayer they will on yours too.
Five Keys to Unlocking ‘Dadly’ Honor:
Choose to Forgive. If you are an adult reading this, you will inevitably be able to recall past hurts, mistakes and shortcomings related to your father and your relationship with him. If not, well, congratulations on being perfect! All kidding aside, the offenses we have experienced may be keeping us from offering forgiveness because we think he doesn’t ‘deserve’ it. But what I have learned is that forgiveness is not for the other person involved; rather it is for us. There is a release of freedom and peace that comes from forgiving those by whom we have been wronged. Forgiveness is absolutely crucial in our ability to honor our fathers. Pray and ask God to reveal any unforgiveness you may be harboring against your father (anger, bitterness, resentment etc may be signs of this). Ask for God’s help in leading you in the process of forgiveness and involve a trusted friend or counselor if need be. Freedom to love and honor your dad is sure to follow! As Paul says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom“ (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Choose to let go of Expectations. One reason I spent so many years frustrated with the relationship with my dad is because I was comparing him to everyone else’s dad. I had created in my head what I thought a father should be and when he didn’t meet my standard, I became angry and discontent. He was an introvert, I wanted an extrovert. He was a thinker, I wanted a feeler. He was a silent leader who led by example, I wanted a charismatic leader who gave specific guidance and instruction. I finally realized I had made up my own definition of what it meant to be a “good dad” and it wasn’t fair to him. Once I let go of my own expectations, I started seeing the unique blessings in my relationship with my real dad, not the dad I wanted him to be.
Choose to See through God’s Eyes. This, I have found, is a major key to being able to extend fatherly honor. As I mentioned earlier, I spent many years focusing on the ‘human’ side of my dad. All of us have weaknesses and flaws and it is often where we wrongly put our focus. I did. But once I started praying this prayer: “Lord, help me see my dad as you see him…” everything changed. Seriously. I began to see my dad with new eyes–God’s eyes–of love and compassion. Suddenly God softened areas of my heart that had been hardened over the years and allowed me to see my dad, not only as a child of God, but as a broken man who needed Jesus as much as I did. Choosing to see others through God’s eyes, no matter how difficult they are to love, changes everything. And it paves the way to wanting to honor our dads despite their shortcomings.
Choose to Give them the Benefit of the Doubt. Often times our relationships with our dads are less than perfect. We long for more communication, more affection, more affirmation and deeper connection. But I have learned that in most cases, dad’s are doing the best they can. They really are. No one is ever fully equipped to be a parent and few are ever formally trained. I look at my own dad with four daughters. How in the heck was he supposed to be prepared for that kind of estrogen overload? Whenever I am feeling discouraged in my own relationship with my dad, I always remind myself to give him a break! We can always ask God to fill any gaps and give us the grace to trust that our dad is doing the very best he can. When we give our dad’s the benefit of the doubt, we can show him the honor that is due.
Choose to SAY “I love you Dad.” When I lived in Singapore, I participated in an awareness drive about Love. We went around the city of 4 million, asking them how often they told their parents they loved them and vise versa. The results were staggering. The majority of both kids and adults reported they “rarely” or “almost never” said the words “I love you” to their parents, and I don’t think this is just a cultural thing. Now you might argue that while God commands us to love, He never commands us to actually say the words. But the Bible does talk a lot about the power and blessing that come from the spoken word, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet for the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). Saying “I love you” to our dad’s may be uncomfortable and awkward at first if we are not used to saying it. But I believe that there is healing and restoring power in actually speaking it out. It is saying, “I love you dad” not because of the kind of father he has or hasn’t been, but because God first loved us. Choosing to love our biological fathers is putting our faith and trust in God and His divine order for the family, no matter how good or bad it has played out. When was the last time you said the words “I love you” to your dad?
Whatever your relationship looks like with your dad, choose today to set your relationship right before God and receive the promise of blessing that results from honoring our earthly fathers. I understand this is not easy and I in no way intend to condone abusive behavior or belittle the pain of those who do not have fathers due to abandonment, death or other reasons. God knows our hearts and He knows every detail of our circumstances and He promises to work all things together for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). Father or no father, good father or bad father, good relationship or bad relationship, rest assured that God will work it ALL together for good because you love Him and He–our Heavenly Father–loves us. Very, very much.
*What are some tricks you’ve learned in being able to honor/respect/love your dad and improve your relationship with him? Leave a comment and join the conversation!