Savage Newsletter: ‘Honor Thy Father and Mother’ Doesn’t Mean Worship Them

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After the long holiday weekend, many Americans are reeling from the time spent with family — myself included.

The annual Thanksgiving gathering is rarely the loving affair depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting. Whether it be personal or political, the disagreements left dormant throughout the year come to light as we come together to give thanks.

As I got back into the routine Monday, I invited listeners to share their own family disputes over the holiday weekend. One particular call stood out during the broadcast.

Sandra expressed the pain she endured dealing with her abusive father and shared how some words of wisdom once given to me, had also helped her with the difficult relationship:

SANDRA: “Four years ago, I heard the voice of God through you. I didn’t grow up religious-”

SAVAGE: “C’mon, that’s a very big responsibility, and that’s too– What do you mean the voice of God through me. What? Like what did you hear?”

SANDRA: “Well, I guess it was a message. I was living a nightmare with my parents and I brought my husband along for the ride. I had been praying really hard — I’m not really religious, but I do believe. I was praying and praying and I didn’t find an answer to the nightmare I was living. I’m an avid listener to your show, and you said that the scripture says to respect your parents, not to worship your parents”

SAVAGE: “That’s a real relief. I learned that from a religious Jewish woman. Because I said, ‘I don’t understand this honor thy father and mother business. Some of them are not worth honoring.’ And she admitted to me that she had trouble with her parents and she said, ‘The actual scripture say that you should honor the fact that you came from them not that you should worship them.’ Is that what you’re referring to?”

SANDRA: “That’s exactly what I’m referring to and thanks to you, four years ago, my husband and I were set free from the nightmare that I had brought him into.”

SAVAGE: “Oh, the parents; you must have had a set of beauties there.”

SANDRA: “Well, my father’s a veteran of Korea. He had post-traumatic stress. My mother is Mexican. So, first generation on her side here.”

SAVAGE: “So, you’re father was abusive. He took it out on her and the children?”

SANDRA: “Yes, it was just my mother and I. He was violently aggressive and verbally.”

SAVAGE: “Alright. So you found out that what you’re doing is you don’t worship your father because he was an S.O.B. to you and your mother. But you respect the fact that he gave you life and you leave it at that and you move on.”

SANDRA: “Yes, but thanks to you. Thank you that God answered.”

SAVAGE: “Well, let me tell you this. That was not my wisdom; I just transferred that wisdom from someone else and she got it from some ancient source. What I’m saying is that in God, Faith, and Reason I tried to find some of the most, let us say, useful ideas from ancient sources and tried to make them contemporary for people.”

These words of wisdom are included in my recent book God, Faith, and Reason. Read an excerpt here and find the book in stores or at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.

The next passage I marked is Exodus 20:12–14. It’s about the Ten Commandments and begins with, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” What does that really mean?

For those of us who have had trouble with one or both of our parents, does it mean we must worship them?

As a very thoughtful religious woman, who herself had had continuous problems with her mother, told me a long time ago, no, it does not mean blind worship of your parents. It means you should honor that you come from your father and your mother.

That gives us a concept of belonging, of an origin, of who we are as beings, that we were not born unto ourselves. It does not mean we must worship our father and our mother, especially if we have a very difficult relationship with them.