As a young teenager, I knew my parents were my superiors. It was my duty to respect and obey them. Over time, God patiently taught me how to do that, even when I didn’t particularly like what I was being asked to do. When I started college, things got a bit more complicated.
A good friend recently asked me: “What was the hardest part about becoming an adult?” I didn’t have to think long to answer. The hardest part about growing up wasn’t holding down a job, writing a budget, or filing my own taxes. It was learning how to keep the fifth commandment—honor your father and mother—while becoming an adult. Before I write any more, I want to say that I have wonderful parents. They’ve sacrificed so much for me, and I thank the Lord for them. All that follows is written with their permission.
What Was So Hard?
As a young teenager, I often butted heads with my parents. During this season, I learned the beloved answer to the Westminster Shorter Catechism Question, #64:“The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.” As a young teenager, I knew my parents were my superiors. It was my duty to respect and obey them. Over time, God patiently taught me how to do that, even when I didn’t particularly like what I was being asked to do.
When I started college, things got a bit more complicated. The desire to honor my parents was present. Yet new freedoms and responsibilities raised a host of questions. How does my application of the fifth commandment change as I grow up? What decisions am I free to make on my own? What decisions should I make with my parents? Do I have to go home every weekend my parents request? Do my budget and calendar need to reflect the exact same priorities that my parents’ did? There were times I didn’t get parental advice when I should have. Other times I would try to shirk responsibility by calling home and requesting that my parents “just make the decision for me.” Sometimes I carefully thought through a decision, but then felt guilty when my final choice was different from what I knew my parents would have chosen. For years, I wrestled with the question: What does it mean to grow up into maturity while respecting my parents?
A Rule of Thumb
I’m going to share a rule of thumb I started using in college. I’m not asserting this formula is lifted right out of the pages of Scripture. I realize the application of this principle may need to be worked out differently across various cultural contexts. With that said, the following mental check helped me navigate some of the tension-wrought decisions that came in the transition to adulthood.