The Best Gift You Can Give Your Parents

When I was working with teenagers, one of my favorite messages I gave was titled, “How to Raise Your Parents.” I camouflaged the real message behind the title, which was, “Honor your father and your mother.” I based it on the fifth of the 10 commandments: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). It's the only commandment with a promise attached—if we honour our parents, we will experience God's blessing.

As I spoke to those teens and talked about ways they could honour their parents, I realized that I was touching a raw nerve. Like all of us, they all desired a strong relationship with their parents. Some enjoyed such a relationship, while others felt distant from their parents and struggled to connect emotionally. Still others had such difficult relationships with their parents that the command to honour them presented a challenge of immense proportions, a major step of faith.

Of all the commandments, this one may be the most mysterious and, perhaps, the most ignored. I've realized that we have failed to train our youth (and also our adults) in what it means to honour their parents. It is as though the fifth commandment has become the “forgotten commandment.”

Over the years as I've spoken to youth and to adults about honouring our parents, I've realized that God has something in this commandment that we are missing today. He wants to do something in our relationships with our parents that I can’t even begin to understand.

Words of honour

Here's my question: Are your parents still waiting for you to thank and honour them for what they did well in raising you? There are many practical ways to honour your parents—by talking to them regularly, by sending them notes and gifts, by spending significant time with them. But I'd like to tell you about a practical and powerful way to honour your parents—by writing a tribute. If you take the time to do this, it has the potential to change your family.

I wish I had thought of this idea sooner. My father died in September 1976 of a massive heart attack. There were no warnings, no goodbyes. I pledged then that I would not wait until Mom died to come to grips with her impact on my life. I resolved to let her know about my feelings for her. So I began working on a written tribute to my mom. I jotted down memories. Tears splattered the legal pad as I recounted lessons she had taught me and fun times we had shared. It was an emotional catharsis.

A written document

With my wife, Barbara’s, help, I decided to have the tribute typeset and framed, making it into a more formal document. I took the finished product and mailed it home to Mom.

I knew she would like it, but I was unprepared for the depth of her appreciation. She hung it right above the table where she ate all her meals. There was only an old clock on another wall in that room—and that clock was no rival for my mom’s tribute.

She shared it with family, the television repairman, the plumber, and countless others who passed through her kitchen.

The results of honouring my mom with a tribute were so encouraging that I began to challenge others to write tributes of their own. It certainly isn’t a magic potion or cure-all for healing difficult relationships. Yet, as people began implementing it, I started to see that honouring parents with a tribute touches something deep in the soul. I began to see that there really was more to this command to honour parents than I realized. Your parents need a tangible demonstration of your love now. Why wait until after they die to express how you feel?

Adapted from The Forgotten Commandment, by Dennis Rainey with David Boehi, FamilyLife Publishing, 2014.

Next Steps

1. If you'd like to write a tribute to honour your parents but you're not sure how to start, check out some of these examples of tributes for help:

2. Listen to Dennis Rainey talk more about honouring your parents in the FamilyLife Today® series, "Putting Your Parents in Proper Perspective."

3. Order Dennis Rainey's book, The Forgotten Commandment.

This blog article first appeared on FamilyLife.com, and is used with permission.


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