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Honor My Mother?!

Honor My Mother?!

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Question:

I know that the Ten Commandments require us to respect our parents. But not all parents are worthy of respect. I am disgusted by the things my mother has done. She is old now and needs me, but there is nothing in her life that deserves respect. How can I respect my mother without losing my dignity?

Answer:

Respecting your mother doesn't mean that you think she is all good. But surely she can't be all bad. Surely you can think of some redeeming feature, something good your mother has done. There must be something for which you can say that she is a worthwhile person. Can't you think of one good thing she has achieved?

I can. You.

Respect for parents is a base for self-respect

Like it or not, you are a product of your parents. No matter how different you are from them, no matter how far you go to avoid repeating their mistakes, you will never be able to change the simple fact that they are your parents. Whether they were good parents or horrible parents, whether they built you up or put you down, they are where you come from.

Your mother brought you into the world. If you honestly think your mother is all bad, without a good bone in her body, then on some level you will see yourself as another one of her failures. Your existence stems from her. Respect for parents is a base for self-respect.

The fact that she mothered a child who has a clear sense of right and wrong, and is aware of her wrongdoing, means she must not be all bad. She may not get the credit for your moral sensitivity, but she does get some credit for your existence. If nothing else, you can at least respect her for that. Far from compromising your dignity, respecting your mother forms the basis for your dignity, because she, along with your father and G-d, was a partner in your birth.

Respect does not mean accepting her failings or excusing her misdeeds. It means that if your mother needs help, you should be there for her. When she speaks, you need not agree, but you must listen respectfully. You have to treat her as a mother. Failing that, your self-respect has shaky foundations.

You don't have to respect the life your mother has led. But, for your own sake, you do have to respect that she is your mother.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (71)
August 2, 2015
Last time I posted here was May 10 2011, the day I had just returned from visiting my hateful father.
I havent posted since but have watched this thread closely.
Now its time for another update.
I have just returned from visiting my parents again.
This time for the first time EVER my father was nice for the entire 4 days I stayed with them.
There was ZERO nasty comments, sly digs or shoving and pushing, why I have no idea all I can put it down to is HaShem.
My dad has dementia and its slowly progessing, hes still with it enough to know who we all are and hold a conversation but he struggles to find the word he wants - can still get a joke and talk about what hes watching on TV or read tell you whats in the newspaper so I'd of thought he'd still be hateful.
Not at all BH!!.
He was meek and mild, almost child like, wanting to hug me and kiss my cheek, telling me how much he loves and adores me, how proud he is of me.
To be honest its blown me away as it has my mom, she was speechless
Anonymous Melbourne
Melbourne
August 1, 2015
Can we honor a parent while 'divorced' from them?
We have a sordid family situation which need not be dragged through the mud. Suffice it to say that my sisters and parents need to be divorced from us. Period. My mother is in a retirement home. My sisters do not communicate with me as I believe they are into Mom's equity and are brainwashing her not to see us. She is not "right" in the head. She wants to see my wife and I (I am the son) yet when we visit she shows little more than being cordial and often insults us. It is a sordid situation and Mom has forgotten how much we have done for HER over the years for the most part. Even her own brother suggests that we "just get on with our lives". We (my wife and I) are very inclined to divorce ourselves from both my mother and sisters for ignorant and unconscionable actions. Can I still honor my mother without having to see her?
Anonymous
April 30, 2015
Thats a pretty stupid answer Aron. You can have a sense of wrong and right by acquiring it, and sometimes your parents are not the best examples. Thus, you build your own point of view and hopefully understand that not every is black and white, there are also shades of grey. You shouldn't base your respect on that. You should respect if they do the same to you, otherwise these toxic people will continue to plant seeds of insecurities and mistrust. While she or he may have some redeeming qualities, if their core is too dark you cannot ever hope they change someday. And if you're going to say: "do as you would like others to act to you", it simply does not suffice in this case.

However, if you are a masoquist, be my guest...
Anonymous
January 8, 2015
You do not need to actively honor a parent who abused you. Honor your parents' contribution to the world in the form of you by being a good person, helping those in need, and becoming something other than what your parents were to you.

You do not owe an abusive parent anything.
ccccalico
USA
December 4, 2014
My Mother was ill and effected her judgement.
but I still love and miss her. I would have wanted the ideal role model , of a woman teaching her daughter to be a good person, and a good Jewish woman, also by example. I feel sad today again, because a friend who really filled that bit of a void passed away last week, and the feelings were of the intensity of the loss of my own Mother. I could care for my friend, and I could look up to her example , and start to forgive myself for not being the best daughter.
Anonymous
Philadelphia
September 29, 2014
My Mother
I always loved my mother. She was my mother -my best friend - my advisor - my conscious - my teacher - and my mentor. My mother always stood up for me - no matter what ! And I am the same with my child . My child deserves this - it is my child ' s right .
Anonymous
toronto
June 1, 2014
Honoring My Mother
When I was young, I despised my mother but as I grew older I began to respect her. I didn't find her an all around good mother but she did have redeeming qualities and tried her best with what she knew. In the end my mother won over my respect and I can say today that in spite of all the ups and downs, I love my mother.
Anonymous
February 3, 2014
Parents
Forgiveness is a Gift U give To Youself!!!!!!
I pardon others in order to be able to be pardoned myself
Anonymous
jewishbrandon.com
February 2, 2014
Mothers have a power position and a lot of them abuse their power.
Anonymous
earth
September 10, 2013
Does the Commandment apply to the children of monsters.
On this issue - Today there is an article in the Times of London on a book written about the daughter ( now 80 ) of Hoss the Auschwitz Commandant who lived with his family in a luxury villa overlooking the concentration camp
She lives in N Virginia. and worked for a time in a Jewish owned fashion shop. She denies the number of Jews admitted by her father as having being murdered under his command and sleeps with his portrait over her bed.
Aubrey J
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