As an adult, loving and honoring your parents does not equal obeying. God placed you with your parents for a season of time to help you grow into a mature adult. At some point this season ends, and your relationship with your mom and dad changes from child-to-parent to adult-to-adult. The roles change from dependency and authority to mutuality. While you are to respect and care for your parents, you are no longer under their protection and tutelage. Children are to obey parents, while adult children are to love and honor them. Therefore, sometimes you will need to confront parents, disobeying their desire for you to agree with them or go along with a bad situation.
People often have difficulty confronting parents, because they still feel like a little child with them. Emotionally they have not left home, so they do not feel free to be separate, truthful, and honest with them. There is too much to lose. If this sounds like you, it might be very helpful to work on these issues in a small-group setting or with a counselor in order to free yourself up from the past so that you can be an adult in the present.
One concrete example of moving out of obedience and dependence on parents happens when you decide that you will not spend some traditional holiday time with your parents. This can often be a cause for a confrontational talk:
You: “Mom, I wanted to let you know as soon as I could that I’ve made plans to go to the mountains with some friends this Christmas. I know this will be the first Christmas I won’t be with you and Dad, so I wanted to talk to you about it.”
Mom: “What are you talking about? You always spend Christmas with us. Your father will be so hurt.”
You: “I’m so sorry you feel that way. I would never want to hurt you. But this year I have a really good group of friends from my singles group at church that I want to spend the holidays with. It’s not about not caring about you; it’s about wanting to be involved with these people at a deeper level.”
Mom: “Can’t you do that at another time? I mean, it will ruin our holiday.”
You: I hope it doesn’t ruin things for you. That’s why I’m telling you this several months in advance, so you can make sure you have time to make any other arrangements you need to so your holiday will be good.
Mom: “Don’t you care about how we feel?”
You: “Yes, Mom, I care very much. And I do like spending time with you. If you think that I don’t care, then maybe we can talk at some other point about your feelings, because I would like to reassure you that I care. But the point of this phone call was simply to give you a heads up so that we can plan and adjust for this change.”
In addition, don’t forget that your parent may need for you to be a change agent in her life. You may be one of the few people in her circle who is aware of her hurtful behavior or attitude. So, just as her job was to correct you in years past, your job (without the parental authority role) may be to correct her in the present. I know of many situations in which an adult child’s confrontation of a parent was life changing for both.
For a deeper discussion on setting boundaries with your parents, read Boundaries and How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding.
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