Seeing Your Parents From Their Perspective…

Businessman on the ledge 1996

Changing Our Point of View:

Looking at Parenting (and Family) From Our Parents’ Perspective

In this article we are going to be talking about parents. That is, we are hopefully going to see ourselves, our family, and our parents from their perspective.

Dead Poets Society: Robin Williams’ character is a professor who challenges his students to  seize the day—carpe diem. And one exercise he has them do is stand on their desks—his desk, to be exact—and see the classroom from a new perspective. Hopefully we will be doing that through this article.

Walt Disney Quote: “The things that we have in common far outweigh the things that divide us.”

Scripture: Malachi 4:5-6 (NIV): “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” “He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents” (The Message).

Luke 1:16-17 (NIV): “Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Exodus 20:12 (NIV): “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

So What?: So it seems as if family is important to God, and not just family looking good on the outside, but being good on the inside. It seems as if there’s more at stake here than mere cold and sterile obedience in your relationship with your parents. It seems that God desires for us—and has indeed created us for—the same unity, love, encouragement, etc. in our earthly families as He does in the Body of Christ, the Christian Church.

It’s so important—this relationship between parents & children that God says those who honor their parents will live long in the land—implying not just longevity but also quality of life.

And it’s so important—this relationship between parents and children—that neglecting it on both sides brings a curse, and working toward it on both sides makes people more ready for Jesus’ return. Honoring your parents—and them not exasperating you—is one of the ways you prepare for Jesus’ return. Intense.

So let’s take a look at your parents from their perspective—hopefully you’ll see them in a new and more gracious light (pause to pray):

1. Your Parents Weren’t Born As Parents (Or As Adults, Either)—They’ve Travelled This Road Before!

Question: If you have to have surgery on your heart, which person do you want to perform the operation—the first year medical student or the thirty year surgical veteran? Exactly.

Your parents are fully equipped and best qualified to parent you because they have already lived through these adolescent and teenage years, just as a doctor who has completed medical school and performed many surgeries is the most qualified to operate on you! They’re not trying to be bossy or control your life—but they have learned a lot from past mistakes and victories and are trying to pass on that understanding to you so that you can avoid some of their pain.

So Please Remember: When your parents tell you what to do, do something differently than you would have done, or do not allow you to do something that you want to do, they’re oftentimes right. They’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell, and you will have a better life if you learn from their mistakes.

2. Your Parents Are Human, Just Like You (Really, They Are!).

Question: If you could meet and hang out with anyone in the world who is living right now, who would it be and why?

Question: Do you think that person is human just like you? In other words, if you walked up to that person and punched them in the stomach, would it hurt them? If that person called you up to hang out and you ditched them, would it hurt their feelings? Does that person weep too each year over the Cubs!?

If those things are true for celebrities and “famous” people, they are even more true for your parents. Your parents get tired, stressed, frustrated, anxious, excited, joyful, bored, sad, relieved, surprised, hurt, etc. just like you!!! You’re parents are real super men and women, but unlike the fictional character Superman, bullets do not bounce off their chests—they hurt.

So Please Remember: When you are disrespectful to your parents, uncooperative with your parents, when you ignore your parents, and act as if you don’t need/want your parents—they hurt too. They feel how you treat them, and it does affect how they treat you back.

3. Your Parents Do Not Love You Because They Have To (They Choose To)!

This is so important for you to know, especially because it is easy to take your parents love for granted. But they love you—in many different ways throughout each day—because they choose to, not because they have to. They want to love you, and even if they don’t tell you as much as they should, they would not trade you for any other child in the whole world. Really. You mean that much to them, they love you that much…They do not love you based on performance (because how often are you actually lovable?), outer beauty, or personal feeling.  Their love for you, like God’s, is a choice they made the moment they knew you’d be born.

Scripture: Romans 5:8 NIV: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So Please Remember: When your parents do things that you like, they aren’t obeying a law; they are making a choice, a choice that isn’t always easy for them to make but that always makes your life a little better in the long run.

4. Your Parents Have to Obey People Too (and They Don’t Always Like It Either)!

Question: How many of you have had parents who have ever asked you to do something you didn’t want to do? How did you feel when you had to do it?

Well, please know that your parents are not above the law, so to speak. Every day they have to obey other people as well—and sometimes they get in trouble too! From bosses to police officers to teachers to politicians to pastors to PTO Committees to even God Himself, your parents have to obey others. And sometimes, they have to obey unfair rules from rude and unkind people.

So Please Remember: Every time you start to grumble because you have to obey your parents and teachers and coaches and stuff, your parents know what it feels like. They have to do it to, and that’s one more thing you have in common w/ them!

5. Your Parents Really Try to Be the Best Parents Possible—They Really Do!

Question: When you wake up in the morning, do you ever make the decision to try to be the worst person you can be, to upset and hurt as many people as possible?

Well, my friends, as hard as it might be to believe, neither do your parents. They want to do a great job, but being a godly parent, being a good parent, is really difficult. No really, it is. Seriously. And they really do try…we really do try.

6. Your Parents Try to Focus on the Long Term Big Picture (While Most Teenagers Focus on the Moment)

Your parents are trying their best to keep you alive, and many have a constant nagging fear that you are going to end up a statistic. That’s why often times they make crazy rash decisions that you don’t understand.

Object Lesson: Grounding

Ever wonder why airplanes get grounded? It’s usually for one of two reasons:

A. Either the conditions outside the plane make it dangerous to fly;
B. Or the conditions in the plane—namely, regarding the pilots—make it dangerous for them to fly.

Either way, planes get grounded to protect them from crashing and to prevent people from dying.

The same is true for why your parents ground you. They might be unfair, they might be wrong, they might be mis-informed. But they are only doing it because they think you are headed for a crash.

So Please Remember: Just like growing up can be hard, being a grown-up is hard to. And in fact, we never really stop growing up. When your parents make mistakes, when they frustrate you, and when they do things you don’t understand that drive you crazy, please show them some grace. We’re trying, we really are.

7. Your Parents Have Wept Over You…Tears of Joy and Regret.

Question: How many of you think your parents cry about you?

Just in case you didn’t know, your parents have cried over each of you. They have cried tears of joy, thankful to God that you were born, are alive, and that they get to be your parents. They have also cried tears of fear, afraid that you will get hurt in this world physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. And they have cried tears of sorrow and regret over mistakes and sins they have made as parents, asking God to forgive them and to help them. Please know this, and respect your parents for it. Some are confident, but not arrogant in their parenting abilities. But most are terribly insecure and unconfident. They know when they are frustrating you, and they know when they are not handling a situation well. They know it, believe me. And oftentimes they simply don’t know what else to do.  But you matter so much to them, and that is why they have cried over you.

So Please Remember: If you ever think your parents don’t care about you or are too busy with their own lives to notice/be concerned about you, please remember that they do care about you, they do notice you, and they are concerned about you, more than you know. It’s just not always easy to show it.

8. It’s All About Grace: Loving, Respecting, Obeying, and Honoring Your Parents Even When They Don’t Deserve It.

In fact, my friends, please allow me to get something out in the open:

Your parents do not deserve your respect. They really don’t. In fact, none of us deserves anything good in this world from God or other people. Read the Bible—especially Romans—and you’ll see. But that does not factor into the equation, really.

This whole “Jesus-thing” is about grace—receiving it from God and sharing it with others; doing the good to others that they do not deserve. Remember how Jesus said, “What’s the big deal if you love people who are good to you, tell you what you want to hear, agree with you, etc.?” It’s easy to love them. But true love

-loves the unlovable
-forgives the unapologetic
-shares with the greedy
-rewards the undeserving
-respects the disrespectful
-honors the dishonorable

Try doing that for a week and you won’t need anyone to tell you to pray, read the Bible daily, and attend church weekly—you’ll want to do those things for relief!

9. For All Their Faults, Many of Your Parents Have the Most Important Thing Right:  They’ve Been Bringing You to a Church That Introduces You to Jesus, the Savior of the World!

But Please Remember: If you’re parents were to get everything else in your life wrong, they have gotten the most important thing right: they are bringing you (forcing you?! :)) to a church that is trying to introduce you to Jesus, the Savior of the world, the God who made you, loves you, died for you, came back to life again for you, and Who wants you not only to be in heaven forever but Who also wants you to have the best life possible on earth, a life where you know and love God, know and love yourself, know and love others, and become the great men and women who God created you to be.

Scripture: John 10:10 (The Message): “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came so they can have real  and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

So Please Remember: While you may think sometimes that your parents are only there to “steal and kill and destroy” your life and your happiness, it’s not true. Really! J Trust me on this one…You are here at church because your parents realize that they are imperfect but they want you to know and love and follow the One who is Perfect—Jesus, who wants to make sure you have the best life possible, here on earth and forever in heaven. If for no other reason than that, they deserve your love, respect, obedience, and gratitude.

Take-A-Ways (Action Steps):

So what can you do? How can you bridge the gap that might be dividing you now or in the future from your parents?

Here are some ideas:

1. Get to know your parents better—ask them about what it was like for them growing up, especially during the high school years. Find out about stuff their parents did to frustrate them, and how they responded. Pretend you’re a journalist and just start asking questions, maybe over coffee at Starbuck’s or a smoothie at Robek’s/Jamba Juice.

2. Pray for your parents. Daily. They need it—haven’t you noticed? 🙂

Closing: Start Small

Now some of you might be saying, “But you don’t understand my parents. They’re SO out of touch! They’re SO inattentive! They’re so not-present! They’re SO stubborn!”

You’re right, I don’t understand. But all I know is that you will have a better life the more you love them—and anyone, really—unconditionally, consistently, actively, and with grace.

If you have a strained relationship with your parents, start small. Climbers on a sheer face of smooth rock start with one foot/hand hold at a time. They crack the rock with their climbing gear one step at a time and make a path up the mountain. Treat your relationship with your parents the same way. Start small, and start climbing. Jesus will be with you every step of the way.

One More Point:

Sometimes you all will do poorly on a test or assignment for school. You’ll get a C, D, or even an F. And when you get a bad grade and your parents start to get upset, what do you do? You generally appeal for grace based on your effort. “But I tried/studied/prepared so much, Mom & Dad. I tried my hardest and did my best!”

My friends, the next time your parents exasperate you, frustrate you, and/or make you angry, please remember that they, too, are trying their best. They’re doing the best they can, and parenting is way more difficult than chemistry, algebra, or social studies. Please give them the same grace that you want from them…

Let’s pray…

Discussion Questions

1. Use a blank card and write down some positive characteristics of each of your parents. This is important to do, especially if you’re currently ticked off beyond belief at them. No human being is all bad, so take the time (and ask God) to help you think of some positives about your parents. Do this. It’s helpful. Seriously. These can include:

-some lessons you’ve learned from them that still stick in your mind and lives
-some actions your parents have done over the years that have blessed you
-a quality or trait that you admire/aspire to in your parents
-things they have done/still do that show you that they love you

2. Re-read Malachi 4:5-6 (NIV): “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” “He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents” (The Message).

What is God hoping for here? What does it mean for parents and children’s hearts to be turned toward each other? What would this look like in your family if it actually happened?

3. What was something from the talk that was eye-opening for you, that helped you to see your parents in a little more of a gracious and empathetic (understanding) light?

4. What are some ways that you can honor your parents? Be extremely practical here—be specific. Don’t just be like “Be nice to them, tell them I love them, don’t yell at them, etc.” Does it matter if they’re “deserving” (i.e. “good” parents)? Why or why not?

5. What will you do differently in your relationship with your parents to strengthen it, starting tonight?

6. What do you need from your parents? How can they turn their hearts toward you? (Write that down on your paper too). Ask God for the strength to show this paper to your parents.

7. Pray for your parents. For real. They need it. You want them, and need them, to have Gods’ help.