A lot of people get lost in religious doctrine and fail to understand that honoring our father and mother has a more evolved meaning than the equivocal interpretation that says we should always submit to them.
With Jesus as our hermeneutical key, the meaning is unlocked: honoring our father and mother means that regardless of who they are and how they have raised us, we forgive their mistakes and consciously work to improve ourselves so that we don’t repeat those mistakes.
We honor our father and mother by becoming a ‘vessel’ for their own betterment.
We honor our father and mother by becoming better versions of them.
It is important to understand this because many of us come from very difficult families and feel guilty when not submitting to them – family, religion and society in general are very ‘efficient’ at fostering this type of guilt in people.
However, guilt should have no place in our lives. We have been forgiven by the one who already knows everything we will do in our lifetime: God (incarnated as Jesus in this spacetime). There’s no spacetime constraint for God, remember?
If a relationship does not edify us, we are free and encouraged to maintain a healthy distance from the person. Loving others and caring for them does not entail keeping close relationships with them and, in some cases, they should not be let into our lives at all. And this includes our mother and father! Even Jesus set his boundaries:
46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
In fact, we will be in a significantly better position to care for family members that are difficult by breaking free from their negative space and then, at some point, reaching out from a more balanced space that we create and invite them to share with ourselves.
And if they are not willing to join us in our balanced space, so be it. Just be forgiving and help however you can without setting yourself up for failure by being pathologically good.
At the end of the day, we have a loving Father and we are all one big family.