I decided to assign this post the above title because it’s the name of a book that I recently heard about for parents raising teenagers, and I thought it was absolutely hilarious. I also thought it was right on. How many kids treat their parents like dirt, and then expect their parents to obey their beckon call? But the sad thing is that most of us don’t stop acting that way once we mature beyond our teen years. Have you ever noticed that the people you have the most trouble being nice to, are your family members? It really is quite remarkable, because they’re most likely the people who care about us the most in this world, and somehow we treat them the worst. Just last Christmas, I was a reduced to a “he said, she said” argument with my brother in which my dad was forced to mediate. He’s 24, and I’m 26, but we acted like were were both about 8.
You know, I wouldn’t treat anyone else in the world that way, so why my family? Or for an even more convicting question, why is my Christian witness so inconsistent? Most of the time I am so careful about being a solid witness to Christ, whether I’m interacting with my closest friends or the cashier at the grocery story, so why does my witness suddenly wither in the face of my family? Why do I suddenly become this selfish, ugly person?
And then there’s that awful Christian self-righteousness. Oh how I wish I could take back those arrogant and condescending rants I went off on my parents about concerning matters of faith! They are really solid Christians, and were Christians long before I was born, but I somehow thought that the little bit of knowledge I attained while I was in college gave me the authority to go home and lecture them about how they should or should not be living their lives. Forget about the fact that they had worked hard to support me and send me to a good school, while also being intentional about discipling me in the Christian faith. Somehow, in my mind, the experience I had gained leading a Bible study for a semester in college trumped their lifelong pursuit of God. Haha, it sounds absurd to think back on now! And it is an even greater testimony to their patience and grace that they actually sat there and listened to me, instead of ignoring me and walking out of the room, which they would have certainly been within their rights to do. I was a complete idiot, but they loved me anyway. Why, then, has it been so hard for me to do the same?
For some of us, the difficulty comes from the fact that our families don’t treat us or love us well. Our families know us better than anyone else, so they know how to push our buttons, or hurt us where we’re vulnerable. Families can be downright manipulative at times. In that situation, loving your family is akin to loving an enemy. But for a lot of us, our behavior stems mostly from the fact that we take our families for granted. Because they’ll always love us, we can treat them however we want. And so we do.
In both instances, whether your family loves you well or treats you poorly, your family relationships will almost always reveal your true character. If you come from a family that treats you well, then you know that they’ll love you no matter what, so you stop people-pleasing and your real nature comes out. And even if you have a family that treats you poorly, try comparing the way you treat them with the way you treat other people you don’t like. The need to people-please is so powerful that it will often drive us to be kind and sweet to those people we don’t like at all, but when it comes to our families, the gloves come off.
So no matter what family you come from, If you want to get a real indication as to where you are in fulfilling God’s command to love others, your relationship with your family is a great spiritual barometer. We may treat everyone we know with kindness and care, but if we still cop an attitude with our parents, then our true motives will be revealed–we are more concerned with pleasing people than pleasing God. A love driven by people-pleasing is conditional, because it is an ultimately self-serving love, but a love driven by God is unconditional. And perhaps that’s what God was up to in commanding us to love our parents. God gave us this commandment in order to reveal our true motives. If we can love everyone but our parents, then it’s probably because we care more about other peoples’ opinions than we do about God’s. The kind of love that God requires of us is a love that knows no boundaries, so this commandment is a great indicator of the ways in which our love falls short of the kind of love God calls us to.
So today let me encourage you to honor your parents. Many times, this is an honor that is long overdue because our parents are simply amazing individuals who left a legacy of love and faithfulness. Other times, honoring our parents takes a great deal of humilty and even pain, but it in either case, it is an exercise in learning to love others, as well as God.