Honoring But Not Obeying Your Parents

When we men approach the powers of our boyhood kingdoms, our families and culture, we must wisely detach ourselves from its forces without succumbing to the false elusion that we have somehow left behind the junk.  One form of distortion is what van Kaam calls “Sociohistoricism.” This happens when we blame all of our woes on the failures of our parents or the trappings of our culture.  “Our culture hates men,” one fellow remarks, “and if my father would have been more caring, I might believe in God.”  I don’t mean to diminish these sometimes-tragic experiences, but as we walk toward the right cross, we will get sucked into the vortex of disappointment and depression if we blame the harshness of life on our traditions.

This is perhaps one reason why some men reject their parents outright.  When they do so, they cut themselves off from the likely reality that their parents did at least something right.  The good we inherited from our parents gets choked off as we react to our pain.  And men stuck here live their lives in a perpetually repeating tragedy.  We begin hating something we will never be able to shed.  Yes, we are the heirs of a mixed package, but the more we can learn to appreciate the situation into which we were “dipped,” the more we can shrug off the bad and enhance the good.  And when we come to see that honoring our parents as adult children does not always mean obeying them, we are free to react less allergically to the ongoing internal force that our culture and heritage have on us.