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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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Anonymous 3 November 16, 2017

What does the Torah tell us to do when there are people who are wrongly interfering with our relationship.with our children ? They stop.our children from having their relationship with their very own mother through no fault of their own. Reply

Ben Sacramento November 12, 2017

There are Litvishe rabbonim (even Gedolim) who say that one who was terribly abused by parents is not required to show them respect. Reply

Amber Stanley February 2, 2017

Honoring your father (G-d) and mother (feminine aspect of G-d). G-d is your mother and father. Honoring the two humans that recreate [you] here on earth [good people or bad] is spiritual development within you. Reply

Anonymous Toronto November 20, 2016

Just randomly came upon a comment I wrote over one year ago. This helps me realize we are making positive progress . B'H many more times than I can ever say. We still have a long way to go ; but I am more grateful than I can ever say for the progress we are making. B'H more times than I can ever say. Reply

Anonymous Toronto July 15, 2016

I am so sorry so many of you have suffered so much abuse. Not to make light of it but I hope most of it comes from ignorance. My child & I suffer from emotiona mental & financial abuse from Severe Parental Alianation. Any & all abuse is wrong and unjustified. I am dealing with this in the most positive way that I can. I am working within the Courts and praying for change. It is extremley wrong unfair humiliating shameful embarrassing and worse. I hope that together we are able to heal the emotional scars that abuse leaves. No one has the right to harm another person. And least of all our children.


Reply

Illiena Volynskaya Antioch July 15, 2016

Respect your mother I have struggled with this. My mother rejected me in various ways all her life. The hurt is so great - how can I get past it and respect her. It is not coming from my rational mind, which understands well what you wrote in your article. Reply

Anonymous Michigan, USA June 16, 2016

My mother was institutionalized in a mental facility when I was 2yrs old. There were five children at the time and my father with the distant help of an aunt raised us with bare necessities. There was very little affection and meager clothing and food. We were basically left on our own on a daily basis. My mother was brought home to visit us not even once per year and as children we rarely visited her. Later on as an adult I visited her very little and there was no real affection or love in me, merely duty. I grew up never knowing true love or even how to accept it. There was much anger, extreme insecurity, self consciousness and low self esteem. My mother lived to be 91yrs old and while still institutionalzed, passed away in 2007. I am now 75yrs old and I never felt real happiness or did not know what it was to be happy. I can say that I never understood what it really meant, to honor my mother or my father. Reply

Anonymous October 8, 2015

And truly, why would I want to care for someone who didn't care for me? I mean, she cared in the way she thinks of caring, but that's not how other people think of caring. Her money was and is more important to her, let it comfort her. All she wants to do is forget the past and move on, not realizing that if you don't deal with the past it will just repeat. So she apologizes, then turns right around and does the same thing again.

I'm done. Reply

Anonymous October 7, 2015

yes, she is still a human being with a soul, she needs shelter and a decent standard of living.
If we're honest, we can find some things that our mothers did better than us, and remember the good parts where she tried in spite of the personal challenges she had. I remember my mom writing my name in my language for me on my lunch box for kindergarten , a language which was different from her's.
The clumsy handwriting showed that a mom was trying to help her child feel like all the other kids. There are snippets of memories that we can cherish even if you've grown up in difficult circumstances.
As we mature we can think of ourselves as the carers rather than someone's child who needs to be cared. Reply

Anonymous Toronto October 6, 2015

As a single mother , who has full custody of my child ; there have been times I have had to exert a termendous amount of power ( that I never knew I had! )to protect my child. I do everything I can to help my child maintain a relationship.with his father. But not if my child is being put in danger , or if he is forbidden from having his loving , non abusive , healthy , positive relationship with me - the biological single mother. Then , I must do everything I can to protect my child. Not once have I ever forbidden my child from his relationship with his father . I may intervene when absolutely nessasary , but never have I forbidden my child from having a relationship with his father. And I certainly do not interfere in anyone elses relationships. But, I will not tolerate my child being put in danger or our biological mother child relationship being tampered with in any way. I do expect others to respect our relationship as we respect theirs. No one has the right to replace me . Reply

Anonymous toronto, October 6, 2015

In many ways, children of divorced parents have more problem solving to do. There are many challenges to overcome. On the other hand , there is a better quality of life for the children - less fighting , abuse , and violence. I am very proud of my child for the way he has handled the situation. I know how much he loves , respects , and appreciates me. If only the father & second wife would do the same ! The biological mother child relationship should be honoured - if only to increase our children ' s love of self , self respect , and self esteem. No one has the right to interefer with a biological mother child relationship. Reply

Anonymous Melbourne Melbourne 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 Reply

Anonymous 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? Reply

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... Reply

ccccalico USA 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. Reply

Anonymous Philadelphia 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. Reply

Anonymous toronto 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 . Reply

Anonymous 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. Reply

Anonymous via jewishbrandon.com February 3, 2014

Parents Forgiveness is a Gift U give To Youself!!!!!!
I pardon others in order to be able to be pardoned myself Reply

Anonymous earth February 2, 2014

Mothers have a power position and a lot of them abuse their power. Reply