I have a theory that the 5th commandment: “Honor your Father and Your Mother…” is a crucial step towards personal freedom.
Because it’s hard.
BUT, when you can see your parents in their own stories with their own sufferings and as imperfect human beings, you open new possibilities for yourself.
I realize this is not your typical approach, but think about it –
The Torah (The 5 books of Moses that begin the Hebrew Bible) commands us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”(Leviticus 19:18) and to “Love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
But, we are never commanded to LOVE our parents.
Only to honor them, to respect them.
Why are we told to love God and others, but not our parents?
I think it’s because the Torah recognizes that love with parents is different from loving anyone else (besides your own children.) Love is something we give wholeheartedly. But, with parents there is a push and pull with how well they have met our needs.
Maybe your parent criticized you a lot, didn’t show pride, was never around, expected a lot, or just wasn’t always fun to be around.
Even when you love your parents, they very often are the main source of conflict in your life! (Often those conflicts are disguised as your inner critic or judge.)
So think about the significance of being told to respect your parents.
The very people who may have failed to protect you in some way, who may have hurt you deeply, who may have disappointed you, or who may drive you crazy, who set expectations you never feel that you can meet – or whatever else, are the very people that you are “commanded” to respect.
Commanded! Not just encouraged or reminded. Commanded!! I really rebelled against that for a long time especially as a child. (Anyone else or was that just me?)
But, as an adult, I have come to realize that this commandment is not written for children. It is written for grown-ups. It is to remind us to see our parents as humans. To remind us that we are human.
I suggest that this well known “commandment” is a call to action to recognize the humanity of your parents and respect them as the fallible humans that they are.
When you can see your parents as the human beings with their own life experiences and story, something huge shifts.
They no longer have a hold on you to keep you from what you want. You no longer define yourself by the limits they intentionally or inadvertently set for you through their own set of actions.
When you recognize your parents as other human beings, as the heroes in their own journeys instead of the players in yours, you find freedom.
Imagine watching your parent on a muted TV screen through a window. Watch how they behave, what they do. What do you see and notice?
Notice their body, their energy, their gestures.
What’s happening for them?
Take yourself out of the dynamic, see them more from a distance.
See your parents as the human beings that they are/were in their own life experience and story.
Explore how you can respect their humanity even if you can’t respect their behaviors.
If you can stop judging you parents, you take a huge step towards letting go of your own self-judgment.
You can move towards respecting everyone’s imperfections, especially your own.
How might that change things for you?
Leah Zimmerman is an Intergenerational Resolving Conflict Expert and Family Business Advisor who makes hard conversations easy. She blends her background in education, theater, personal development and spirituality to create transformational conversations for individuals, teams and families. Find Leah on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-r-zimmerman-/ to learn more. To see other writings related to Torah visit https://experiencingtorah.wordpress.