On Monday I shared the story of my friend, Cheri, whose dad verbally abused her for most of her life.
I met Cheri on a mission trip. She was vibrant and funny. She was beautiful, and her love for Jesus was evident.
She was also insecure, and uncertain.
One night we talked late into the evening and somehow the conversation turned to family.
With tears she shared how every Sunday she climbed into a car with her family to drive to her father’s house. She told me about the words he said to her in front of her children, and how she never said anything.
She told me that it impacted her children and how they viewed her. She said that the fights between her and her husband were all linked to her refusal to let him stand up for her, and that when she looked in the mirror, her father’s words blotted out everything that was good.
“Why do you keep going?” I asked. “Why are you showing up every Sunday?”
She looked up in surprise.
“We’re supposed to honor our parents, right?”
Was it possible that Cheri had confused honor with allowing abuse?
Honor (biblical definition): giving weight to a relationship; internal respect and reverence for another.
That night I asked Cheri to share what she really thought about her dad. Did she honor him?
“I resent him. I want to be anywhere but with him,” she said.
Rather than honor, Cheri was trapped in a relational pattern that was unhealthy and damaging. Her definition of honor actually looked like this:
honor = showing up = stuffing my feelings = anger, bitterness, resentment = conflict that is never resolved = feeling trapped
In order to find peace in her relationship with her dad, Cheri had to redefine what it meant to honor her dad.
The first question was: What do I need from my dad?
Her answers were:
- I need my dad to stop saying hurtful words
- I need my dad to respect me
- I need a healthier relationship with my dad, because I do love him
Saying these out loud was the first step toward honoring her dad, because she realized that she did love him, that she did want a relationship with him.
Then we flipped the question, because you and I can’t ask from someone what we aren’t willing to give.
What might her dad need from her?
- My dad needs me to stop saying hurtful words in my heart about him
- My dad wants and needs respect, even if he’s asking in the wrong way
- My dad needs my love
These became her first step in creating boundaries that were mutual. They were also the first step in breaking a long-standing pattern in their relationship.
We’ll talk more tomorrow about how that changed their relationship, and how that impacted her children, but let’s pause.
Ask yourself these questions if you feel that you are in an unhealthy pattern, or that you’ve somehow misunderstood the definition of honor:
What do I need in this relationship?
Have I ever shared those needs?
Have I been so focused on what they’re doing that I’ve never addressed my part in the pattern?
Am I willing to change even if no one else signs up?
I’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll dig a little deeper in this study. But can I just tell you how amazing it is that you are willing to take the harder path to discover all that God has for you as a mama, and as a woman?
I’m incredibly proud of you.
Answer today’s questions in your journal.
Read Matthew 19:26. Write a prayer inviting God into this harder path of change and growth.
Something that you should know, and something that should fill you with a warm peace, is that the last five words of your entry, can be and are a rich and soothing balm of many of us, who never got that respect from our Dad. There is such a deep cavernous empty pit that hungers to be filled with a Dad’s love and respect, a thing that many of us will never have the opportunity to receive. A dear and loving husband really makes that emptiness go away, except the deep down hurt caused by a person, who in their own way probably really loved you, but could not it in a positive way. It is with the love and support of friends that we can grow and overcome our pasts.
My dad died when I was very young. Never have the opportunity to have a relationship with my dad nor have any memories of him. I truly believe that if my dad still alive maybe my life would be different. My mom remaining widow so never have the experience of a male role model in my life. So I don’t know what it is like to have a dad in my life. My heart goes to those who have a father but being abused by and for those who have a decent father would be appreciate. Prayers and thoughts are with you all.