A dear friend of mine reached out to me a while ago. She had a disagreement with her dad and she was really fed up. It was not because of the events of that day alone. It was a build-up of unresolved conflicts with her parents.
For the record, my friend is a very good Christian but was feeling burned out and stressed because of the constant conflict with her parents. She had reached out to me to know how best to handle the matter. To be very honest, parenting in Africa is dynamic from one home to another.
People can only give out of the much they have hence a lot of the patterns that we see today in our parents, (some of which may be abusive) are patterns that they also grew up with.People can only give out of the much they have hence a lot of the patterns that we see today in our parents, (some of which may be abusive) are patterns that they also grew up with. Click To Tweet
If they knew better they would treat/ relate better. This however does not negate or limit the effect of their actions and inaction on us as individuals.
God expects for us to love, obey and honour our parents. Ephesians 6:2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)…
But what happens when they are toxic or abusive?
How does one handle conflicts with parents as a Christian without giving in to rebellion?
Evaluate your relationship with your parents
Evaluate simply means to judge or determine the significance, worth, or quality of something…You will need to sit with yourself to look at the situation, then have a talk with them. Do they know you are hurting? If they do, are they willing and able to try and change? Is this a relationship that can work close up or is long-distance?
A lot of time we are still hurting over things that were done in the past so it becomes harder to forgive and move forward as much as possible, deal with issues don’t pile up hurt.
Lack of communication kills any relationship including with parents. So if you can, sit them down and actually have a conversation with them about how you feel and how you would love to be treated.
Be ready to forgive
Having a conversation is no guarantee that you will be heard or the issue will be fixed automatically. You need to be prepared that the conversation can go any direction. Regardless of how it goes, the next step is to extend mercy and forgiveness to your parents. Whether they acknowledge their wrong or not, there is a need for forgiveness on your side so that you can be free.
Remember, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Forgiveness as a believer has little to do with the attitude of your offender and more to do with your response to the fact that you yourself have been forgiven much. The same goes for honouring your parents. You do not honour them because they deserve it but because in your honouring them, you honour God.
Christ died for us. Forgiveness as a believer has little to do with the attitude of your offender and more to do with your response to the fact that you yourself have been forgiven much. Click To Tweet
Even in situations that look like they do not deserve your honour or forgiveness, remember this is not about them. It is more about you and your obedience as a response to God’s love. The bible also says to make allowance for one another’s faults (Colossians 3:13)
Bearing in mind that your parents have your best interest at heart (not disregarding that, this isn’t always the case) though they may not be going about it the right way might make this a less painful process.
You can heal
After forgiving your parents, you may need to heal. Many times we live in the shadow of the resentment caused by abusive words, actions or inaction of our parents and this hinders other relationships.
There is a need to heal and to remember that nothing and no one defines you except God. Remember that just as much God is able to heal your physical body God can heal your heart.
If you struggle with words spoken to you regardless of how long these words were spoken over you and by whom, remember it is God who defines you. This means if it is not in alignment with the Word of God, discard it.
Therefore this may end up being a long and a continuous process but it is an absolutely important one. Begin your healing process today.
Pray for your parents
As you heal and forgive your parents for the hurt they have caused you, also pray for them. I have come to understand from personal experience that prayer for those who hurt you releases bowels of mercy that you didn’t even know you had.
Human nature is incapable of loving like God has called us to. It is the love of God that compels us. When we genuinely pray for those who have hurt us, Strength to forgive is made available for you and God works on the heart of men such that even in the most difficult situations and with the most uncooperative parents, God can still intervene because the bible says He has the hearts of kings in His hands (Proverbs 21:1). Your parents are certainly not beyond His reach.
Set Boundaries when you need to
Assuming you have done all and still, the tension and/or abuse remains, it may be time to build some boundaries especially if your life is in danger or your mental health is dwindling. The bible says for parents not to provoke their children to anger.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
So if you have done all that is within your power and the tension remains, it may be time to build boundaries to protect yourself. And you do not need to feel bad about this. As long as you are not harbouring ill feelings towards them or dishonouring them, it is okay to isolate yourself for a while or move out.
Especially in African settings, a lot of issues young adults have with their folks will be eliminated by almost 50% if they only lived away from their parents. Sometimes, that long-distance relationship with them is best for your physical and mental health and even theirs too.
This also applies in a case where your parents are hindering you from following the path you believe God has called you to walk in. We see an example in Luke 2:41-51 when Jesus was away from His parents in the temple after the Passover. He made them understand that even though they were his earthly parents, He was on earth to be about His Father’s work (verse 49) This is however not a license for rebellion, as we would later in verse 51 that Jesus followed them back home and was obedient to them.
Truth is, there is no-size-fits-all when it comes to dealing with African parents especially as a young Christian. However, God still expects for us to honour our parents and to live peaceably with all men to the best of our ability (Romans 12:18).
To do this, you may need to have that difficult conversation with them that you have been avoiding or even move out of the house. Whatever the situation is, take some time and pray to God for wisdom on how to live peaceably with your parents.
Regardless of the situation, remember you have a Father in God and a family in other believers. Jesus said something profound in Mark 3:31-35 when he was teaching and news came to Him that His mother and brothers were looking for Him. He replied – “Who are my mother and my brothers?”. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” So even if you lose your family because of your faith remember you have a Father in God and a family in other believers God has placed around.
Regardless of the situation, remember you have a Father in God and a family in other believers. Click To TweetFor anyone who is reading this and really struggling with living peaceably with their parents, I pray for God’s wisdom for you to know exactly what you ought to do and how to do it.