Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you. Exodus 20:12
Most of us know the Ten Commandments, one of which is that we are to honor our father and mother. By extension, those of us who are married are supposed to honor our spouses, and those of us who have children are supposed to honor our children.
In the last reflection, we discussed the idea that admonishing others is a part of life. When someone does something wrong, they need to be corrected. When each of us does something wrong, there is a good chance we will be corrected or called out on it. This is what admonishing is. However, admonishing can happen in a positive way or in a destructive way. And we discussed how it is actually possible to be encouraging even while admonishing. It depends primarily on the spirit in which admonishing is given, which hopefully is a spirit of love.
I once read an article that said basically, that we are more likely to treat family disrespectfully, even more so than how we treat our friends. Perhaps that is because we think of family as people who are stuck with us, while friends choose to have relationships with us. We tend to choose our words more carefully with friends or even strangers than we do for our own family sometimes.
Because we are around family more than we are around anyone else, we probably admonish family more than others in our lives. Because our families are “always around” we also tend to take our families for granted which is why we admonish family more carelessly.
Today’s reflection is an encouragement to speak carefully to those who are closest to us, so that we don’t take our families—our parents, our spouses and our children—for granted. Reflect on these questions for a moment: Are you more likely to “blast” your spouse or your children than to blast our friends, or relative strangers, like the mailman, or the teller at the bank or the clerk at the store? For most of us, sadly the answer is yes.
Here is the challenge for us this week. When you want to raise your voice to admonish your spouse or to your parents or to your children, ask yourself “would I talk to a friend like this?” or “would I talk to the mailman/garbage collector/bank teller, etc. like this?”
There is a phrase that says “you only hurt the ones your love.” Ideally, we shouldn’t be hurting anyone. And if we are careful with friends and even strangers, we should be careful about what we are saying, especially to the ones we love the most.
Finally, when we are around someone all the time, we tend to think we don’t need to encourage them. We might even think that saying the same thing repeatedly, like “I’m proud of you,” or “thanks for being my spouse” might get redundant. We might make the mistake of thinking “well, they KNOW I’m proud of them.” Well, when we don’t hear encouragement, we might wonder what someone thinks of us. When we don’t hear “I’m proud of you” from our parents, we might wonder if they are proud of us. When we don’t hear “I love you” from those closest to us, we might actually wonder “do they really love me?”
I’ve often wondered why the commandment to honor your father and mother (and by extension your family) is the only commandment that connects obedience to longevity. Here are two answers I’ve come up with (I’m sure there are more): First, it is our parents who were the first ones to tell us to look both ways before crossing the street. If we didn’t listen to our parents when they gave this advice as well as other advice (don’t play with fire, don’t put things in your mouth, etc.) there is a good chance we wouldn’t be alive today. Secondly, because we are with our families more than with others, there is the potential for greater stress. After all, we are more likely to have stress with people we see every day than with those we see rarely. We know that stress brings on illness and wears our defenses down. Ultimately, stress contributes to sickness and death. If we keep our stress down, we are more likely to live longer. Encouraging one another and being careful in our families will lower stress and lead to longer life. So, when we honor our parents, our spouses and our children, it is more likely that our days will be long.
Lord, thank You for the gift of my family. Thank You for (mention the names of your family members and closest friends). Help me to treat everyone with kindness, especially those who are closest to me. Help me to always have a spirit of gratitude for my family, and to speak with everyone in a respectful way that reflects my love for them. Help me to be a better (child, spouse, parent). Bless my (parents, marriage, children) today and always. May these relationships reflect and honor You always. Amen.
Don’t forget to encourage those who are closest to you. And when it is necessary to admonish someone in your family, choose your words as carefully as you would choose them if you were talking to a friend.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.