You Cannot Honor Your Aging Parents by Dishonoring Yourself and /or Your Family

Jul 19 2018

The Book of Exodus, chapter 20, verse 12, states the Fourth Commandment: 

“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” 

As youngsters, this commandment echoed through our minds as a central theme in our religious instruction.  The basic message was that to honor meant “to obey.”  Yet, we will always be children of our parents.  We will never be their parents.  Even though we are called at times to perform tasks which seem fundamentally parental for our own parents, the role reversal that has been so often touted as fact can never happen.   

As children “honor” meant obedience.

As adults, “honor” means remain steadfast, do not abandon.

 A modern dictionary’s definition of abandonment is slightly broader: to withdraw protection, support, or help, or to exercise complete disinterest in the fate of…

  Clearly, abandoning loved ones is an extreme form of dishonor. 

Obviously, to make the determination whether abandonment is present depends upon many variables, including the strength of the aging parent, resources, proximity of the caregiver, other assistance that the caregiver has at his or her disposal, and the like.  Yet abandonment can be expressed on many levels and in many ways: 

  1. Physical abandonment: neglect of physical needs
  2. Financial abandonment: failure to fund basic needs
  3. Emotional abandonment: very little, if any, contact
  4. Psychological abandonment: verbal abuse or neglect
  5. Familial abandonment: cut off from family involvement
  6. Spiritual abandonment: never talk about God or the hereafter 

But let’s not forget that honoring your aging parents does not mean abandoning yourself. 

Whereas the Fourth Commandment is clear about not abandoning your aging parent, it is not so clear about abandoning yourself.  I see many caregivers who do exactly that:  They give until they have but an ounce of energy left to give, which they then go ahead and give away as well.  They are left with nothing of themselves; they are emotionally spent; their energies are all but exclusively devoted to their aging parent. 

Caregiving is essential for all of us.  Yet what exactly is healthy caregiving whether it’s in service to our aging parents, our adult children or grandchildren in need, or anyone else.  I have written several books on this subject, because it is one so dear to my heart.  Here are two, you might want as reference; How to Honor Your Aging Parents, and Because I Care.. 

You may also wish to look at Johnson Institute Course 107: The 10 Essential Elder Caregiving Techniques Every Caregiver Needs to Know and Practice. 

Until next time….keep God’s love firmly planted in your heart. 

Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D.

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