honor thy father?

Under the commandment to honor thy father are we obligated to cultivate a relationship with our parents? My parents divorced when i was about 3. I didnt see my dad much and then the visits stopped altogether. When i became an adult i reached out to hin and we formed a relationship. He began going to church (methodist) and over time was able to help me come to Christ. Then things went south. He became very judgemental not only of me but most peope he came into contact with. I found out that he was talking very badly about me behind my back to several people. When i asked him about it he got defensive and we fought. As a result we havent spoken in a few years. I have recently been confirmed into the Catholic Church and am now struggling with the wonder if i have to try to repair this broken relationship? Is it God’s desire or just a human idea that we should have a relationship with our parents?

In an ideal world we would have such relationships, but there is no requirement to subject ourselves to abuse. I’m sorry you have such a difficult relationship with your father, and I cannot advise you one way or the other on whether to reach out to him again, but I can tell you that honoring your parents does not mean pretending that the bad that they do is acceptable or continually putting yourself in a bad place.

The commandment would not require you to once again try to form a relationship that is generally bad for everyone. Whether it would be wise for you to try to connect with your father again is best discussed with a priest or spiritual director or counselor, but from what you have said, it sounds like you have honored your father and he has rejected it. When this happens, it doesn’t mean we no longer have to honor our parents, but it can be done from a distance.

Good advice.

We are not obligated to continue to be a part of any type of abusive relationship. And I would say to the OP that what they have described was an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. The OP can certainly try again to have a relationship with their parent, but if that parent continues to be abusive verbally and emotionally there is no requirement to continue the relationship.

I agree with all the advice given. I believe that we are required to set the foundation for a good relationship with our parents, but that if they break our trust to this extent, they themselves have broken the relationship and we are not to blame. We aren’t required to repair the relationship - that’s up to the guilty party.

If and when your father reaches out to you, you can set rules that dictate proper, respectful relationship - e.g., no extensive criticism, no bashing you for your beliefs, etc. And you can establish clear consequences should he break these rules - e.g., you’ll put your coat, walk out the door, and that will be final. Those rules and consequences will be up to you, and basically it’s about setting boundaries in the way a parent usually does to his or her child.

I firmly believe that it’s a parent’s job to model good and proper behavior. It’s unfortunate that you have to be more of a parent in this respect than your own dad.

Sometimes when people hurt us, as it sounds in your case, the best way to to honor them is by praying for them. You can honor your father by saying the rosary for him, fasting for him, or having masses said for him.

It sounds like you have tried. You are not obliged to keep trying - it takes more than one person for a relationship, it is not a one way street. He has rejected you. If he repents and is open to repairing what you once had - then why not.

Thank you all so much! What a great help you all have been :slight_smile:

I believe it*** is*** God’s desire that we all have good relationship with our parents and that broken relationships be healed. That said, not everyone will have a good relationship with their parents. That’s difficult or even impossible one or both individuals is emotionally unhealthy or worse yet–evil.

I don’t know how people judge from the one paragraph that you wrote that your father is abusive. He certainly doesn’t sound like “Father of the Year”. It sounds like he has some problems that aren’t exclusive to his relationship with you.

God is amazing at healing people and relationships. If you haven’t spoken to your father in years and you are feeling a tug at your heart to reach out to your father, I suggest you try. If you are unsure about it, then pray about it–and speak to a good father– in the confessional–to get a priest’s opinion of your obligations to your dad.

I can understand your hesitancy to let your father hurt you again, (or maybe I can’t–my parents didn’t divorce and I had a wonderful dad, may he rest in peace.) Life is short, and you may not always have a chance to make up with your dad, so I encourage you to try.

I agree with the above poster. If you feel a tug at your heart, it may be from God telling you to give it another shot. I had an experience like that before.

I would not call him abusive either. Hes just no kind of dad to me. I am his only child so i just dont understand why he has been absent from my life for more years then he was present. Of course there is part of me that still wants that bond, hes my dad after all. But then i think of all the issues and just dont think i want to put myself or my family through it yet again. Of my6 kids he only has anyhting to do with one. He used to see this son on his birthday, take him for weekends, call him and so forth. While pretty much ignoring the rest of the kids. Not even sending the other kids a birthday card or calling them.
Hes the type of person that as long as you have the same views and live a life according to his ideals then all is well. Since i dont fit in his mold he tends to spark arguements with me. For instance… i live in the same small town i grew up in, im in the country, i have a big dog, i have 6 kids, i raise chickens, i read books other then christian based, i am a stay home mom, my husband is a welder, we enjoy trail riding, my husband does farm work half the year, i dont go to the same kind of church he goes to, i love working outside. About the only thing i do that he agrees with is my painting. I am working on forgiving him but that is as far as i will go unless he reaches out to me. He has my home address and email.

:console: It sounds like you have a wonderful family of your own, and that family is important to you.

Much of life is about learning to get along with people, and it doesn’t sound like your dad has learned that since he argues alot and cuts people out of his life. It certainly doesn’t sound like he has healthy relationships with people–and at some point the medical community starts diagnosing people who can’t maintain healthy emotional connections with people.

May I offer a suggestion? I’m assuming that you are an artist, and since you wrote he agrees with your painting, why not paint something special for him and send it to him as a gift? Young children typically love sharing their art for displays on the refrigerators,etc.–and it sounds like your dad missed out on that experience when you were young! Sending him a small painting, since that’s something you share in common, might help open the doors to communication. He may not respond or he might respond unfavorably, but if you’re willing to take that chance, I encourage you to reach out by sending something you created just for him. Your art might touch him in a way that words cannot. In any case, take my suggestion for whatever it’s worth, but it seems to me that would be one way for you to honor your father.

I needed so badly to hear that you said there is no requirement to continue the abusive relationship. I am on the brink of making the decision never to see or speak to my father again. But I’m so scared that Jesus won’t forgive me if I do this. I’d like to tell you some of the things my father has said to me over the years to help you understand my situation and to hear feedback on my question, which is, “Can I finally break off my “relationship” with my father without offending Jesus and jeopardizing my soul?”

My father has been emotionally abusive to me my entire life, and I am now about to turn 48. I believe that the abuse is responsible for the depression I have suffered with since my early twenties. He has called me fat, stupid and lazy; has told me that my brother is smarter than I am, and once when I got a job that I was really proud of and called to tell him about it, he told me that my brother should have gotten the job. Once at Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ house, as we were walking into the dining room, he remarked out loud, “Your butt is as wide as a barn door!” The hurt and humiliation were compounded when none of my relatives came to my defense–they remained silent. I was silent too, because I couldn’t even process the fact that he could be so cruel to me. Once when he was helping me check out my car to see if everything was functioning correctly, he told me to turn on the bright lights. I hesitated for a moment because I had forgotten how to to the brights on. He immediately began screaming at me–his words were, “I TOLD YOU TO TURN ON THE BRIGHTS! WHAT, ARE YOU STUPID?” At that moment, I finally got the nerve to tell him NEVER to call me stupid again. His response was to fly into a rage that was so frightening I was afraid he would physically hurt me. He screamed at the top of his lungs (now realize, we were in the driveway in our neighborhood when all this was happening) for me to shut up and get my *** in the house. I was so shocked and scared that I did what he said. When we got in the house, he was still in a rage and told me just to leave, which I did gladly. He was also abusive to my grandmother. When she was in a nursing home, several months before her passing, she was depressed and agitated. My father spoke to her in the most hateful, harsh tones and I just couldn’t take it any more and I snapped. I wanted to tell him off but was afraid to offend Jesus, so I yelled, “Daddy, I love you but I hate the way you talk to Granny!” His response was to yell in a hateful tone of voice, “I DON’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT YOU THINK!!!” I left the nursing home immediately after that. I knew he was beyond any kind of help and I didn’t care anymore. But it gets worse. One time, I was talking to my dad on the phone and he was criticizing me relentlessly. I told him that I shouldn’t have to take that from him and he yelled at me that I was too sensitive. Then he said the words that hurt me to the depth of my soul. He said: “You know, I NEVER LIKED YOU.” And suddenly it dawned on me. I had always known that he never liked me. Even from my earliest memories as a little girl, I knew that. And then I realized why I’ve suffered from depression all of my adult life. I have constantly tried to earn the approval of my father and have never been good enough for him. I’ve longed to be married, but I’ve never been able to have a healthy relationship with a man because I’m always afraid I’ll never be good enough for him. I’ve never had confidence at work because I have believed my father’s lies that I’m not smart. I’ve let him poison my entire life. This April, I had to quit my job because I was in such a deep depression that I couldn’t function anymore and was thinking about harming myself. I sold my house and moved in with my mother because I was too afraid to live alone. (My parents divorced when I was 14.) I have recovered from my depression, but during the time I was so sick, my father never called me to ask how I was or to even say he was sorry that I was going through so much pain. I saw him once during that time, and the most he said to me about it was that he thought I should try to get on disability so I would have some extra money. My father doesn’t call me or acknowledge my birthday and hasn’t for years, which all started when I got up the nerve once to tell him he needed to stop criticizing and controlling me. I have tried over the years to forget and forgive, and I have taken this to confession many times. I have tried to have some semblance of a relationship with him, but I have to ask myself–does Jesus want me to keep taking this? Doesn’t Jesus love me enough to want me to stop letting my father treat me this way? I am thinking of sitting down with my father and telling him that I don’t want any kind of relationship with him any more. And at this point, I am questioning whether Jesus would even expect me to provide any kind of care for him at all if and when he becomes old, frail and sick. (He is now 76 and healthy.) I know that I have to forgive him and I have done so many, many times. But it’s becoming harder and I don’t know if I can continue to forgive him since he feels no conviction to stop the abuse. Please help me.


I am so sorry for your pain. It sounds like you have one major cross to bear. Instead of sitting your dad down and explaining that you’re cutting him out completely, which closes all chance of reconciliation, maybe you can just seperate yourself from him and make yourself unavailable to his barrage of insults. There is a difference between the two approachs. The first approach sends a message of, “You’re dead to me. I never want to see you again. In case you ever want to attempt to make things right, it’s too late. Don’t call me.” The second approach sends the message, “I hate the way you talk to me and I don’t have to tolerate it. I’m separating myself, and will be avoiding you until you call to apologize and agree to treat me with respect.” It’s up to your dad if he calls you. He might not. If he doesn’t, that’s on him. In the meantime, you are free to enjoy your life. I’m praying for your situation. May God bless you abundantly!

I want to point out in Shelly’s case that the dad did not criticize her to her face. Is he pretty decent when you do talk? Does he have some self control not to criticize your life choices while you are visiting? If that’s the case, I would give him some slack.

The reason I say this is because I came into the Catholic Church in my 20’s, and my parents were not impressed. There was no God stuff growing up and they had some trouble with it. Now as a Catholic, I made some life choices that I am sure they did not like but they did not criticize me to my face. Some neighbors and family were at fault for telling me that parents did not like this and that, and really, it was none of their concern to repeat that to me. In my eyes, the blabbers were at fault, not my parents. If my parents wanted to confide in them, it was not for them to break that confidence. Do you see my point? Sometimes we need a friend to get things off our chests. That’s no friend to repeat things because of the hurt it can cause. I know my parents could have said it to my face but they didn’t want to hurt me, so why would the neighbor or relative blab it? Shame on them. I am grateful that my parents showed some self control when we visited because they wanted the visits. I appreciate the effort that must have taken on their part because I have been known to bite my tongue at times and it’s not easy.

Now that said, here’s the end of the story. My parents both had cancer at the same time. My mother left this earth as she lived this life (I know she regretted some things looking back that she would change) but my dad at 79 called up one day and asked to go to church with us. I cried with happiness, and we picked him up, he went every Sunday until he couldn’t go any more, and the last people he saw while he was conscious was our deacon and priest. I have that consolation now until my last day, and it brings me tears of joy. God is very gracious. I’m glad I did my best to be gracious when it was hard.

Wishing that God strengthen and guide you today and always.

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