Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Christian and the Fifth Commandment-Part Two

In part one I began addressing some principles involved in the fifth commandment. Christians have unique issues when dealing with a malignantly narcissistic parent which is why it's important to look carefully at principles so we can know what is truly expected of us. Narcissists who pretend to be Christian have the weight of one of God's commandments to justify themselves and force their adult children into a lifetime of servitude. I am endeavoring to show that this commandment is not a license for a parent to ruin your life.

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."

One of the ways that children, both as minors and after becoming adults, show honor to their parents is this: by living honorably. Deservedly or not, if a child misbehaves it reflects poorly on the parent. When an adult child breaks laws of decency and good behavior it still reflects dishonor upon the parents. The parents of serial killers and other murderers, child molesters, etc. are looked askance upon by society when the crimes of their progeny came to light. I am sure many have changed their names in order to evade the shame. So, first principles of the fifth commandment to an adult child is this: live honorably in order to not bring shame upon your parents.

This principle of not shaming one's parents holds true in other contexts as well. You do not honor a parent when you publicly shame them. This is why I do not post under my real name at my blog. All identifying marks that would tell people who exactly my parents are, are not given. No one can link my blog to my parents. Only the principle players would recognize themselves in my descriptions if they were to stumble upon them. I would never write a book, even after my parents death, that would publicly shame them.

Religious Jews are big on keeping the fifth commandment, yet they do acknowledge there are times when a parent behaves in a way that dishonors themselves, therefore they teach that an adult child would be dishonoring their parent if they did not try to remonstrate with them to right the wrong. Again, one would do this privately so as to not publicly shame a parent. Religious Jews understand there is a principle in the fifth commandment that requires an adult child to not just stand by if their parent is in the wrong. Adult children are to make a sincere effort to persuade their parents to do what is right. We honor our parents in trying to bring them back to right principles. Which leads us right back to the reality that God never requires His people to honor what is wrong. If a parental figure is living contrary to God's principles, we are required to submit to God's authority and not our parents. "Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD" Eph. 6:1. That is an essential phrase, "in the Lord". Our parent's authority is superseded by God's authority. We can not honor God by honoring our parents if our parent's are doing evil.

Which leads us to the sometimes sad reality that sometimes parents who do evil can not be dissuaded from their course. If any person persists in evil, God's instruction is to leave them alone.

Titus 3:10-11 says: "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."

The King James Version calls the "divisive" person "heretic". A heretic is someone who teaches and lives contrary to the Word of God. In other words, they divide you from God. In the context of the verses that surround the word "divisive" is the picture of an individual who is argumentative and quarrelsome. Some versions use the word "troublemaker" instead of "divisive". A malignantly narcissistic parent's behaviors go far beyond these descriptors of the type of person we're instructed to separate ourselves from. Keep in mind that this instruction is to Christians toward other Christians. So if your parent lays claim to being a Christian, far from finding shelter from accountability, these verses apply even more directly to them.

The principle of these verses that we need to take into our consideration is to learn to recognize when another person's behavior is consistently influencing you or others close to you (i.e. your children) to live contrary to Biblical principles. If you are married, then your first obligation applies to your spouse, not your parent. If you have children, you are accountable to God to raise them according to truth and righteousness. If your parent represents a threat to these primary obligations of yours, then you would be in the wrong to keep such a parent in close proximity to you and yours. God has not been unclear as to the proper order of things. Your spouse is first, your children next. Your parent is described as the person you leave (Gen. 2:24) in order to embark on these new, and now primary, obligations. A narcissistic parent who is demanding first place in your life is betraying their disregard for God's order of things.

In the passage we're looking at, Paul uses the term, "self-condemned". Take note. If a person will not turn from their evil course, they are SELF-CONDEMNED. YOU are not condemning them. They do it to themselves. When you follow the instruction to "have nothing to do with them" they are not being condemned by you in God's eyes either. They have condemned themselves. The "Christian" narcissists in my family have decried my attempts to deal with the truth with them as evidence that I am condemning them. Then they would condemn me for condemning them. This line of logic doesn't hold to up the scrutiny of God's Word. They are self-condemned. My mother has acted like my choosing to no longer have her in my life is somehow condemning her before God. Nothing could be further from the truth. She has direct access to God's throne of grace. Nothing I do can prevent her from making things right with Him. I do not have the power to make God condemn her. Don't be diverted from by the silly logic of narcissists. They twist and turn to make you into the bad guy any time you refuse to give them what they demand. The Bible is misused by them to accomplish this with you.

Notice also that the Biblical number in dealing with overt and/or persistent sin is "two or three". It is part of Christ's instruction in Matthew 18 in dealing with someone who has sinned against us. We are not required to remonstrate with someone forever. They don't get endless chances for do-overs. There is an end to how much we are to deal with unrepentant evil. Why is this? I believe it is because evil is infectious. By close association with it, we become more tolerant of it. God isn't willing to risk the integrity of His followers by forcing them to rub shoulders every day with evil people in the church or the Christian home. Like Paul says, God isn't asking us to judge the world, that is His purview. But we are specifically to distance ourselves from those who call themselves Christians but who behave in evil ways:

1 Cor. 5:9-12...I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

There are a slew of verses in the Bible with similar instruction on how to deal with evil people. Paul is quoting the Old Testament when he writes, "expel the wicked man from among you." That specific phrase is used six times in Deuteronomy, which Paul was quoting. The list he gives above of types of wicked people is not an exhaustive list of evil. But it is important to note what he is really emphasizing here...that Christians are called to judge (i.e. use discernment) those who call themselves Christian. Not people in the world, but Christians. There are many Biblical exhortations for Christians to judge behaviors. It is presented as a duty to do so. We aren't to sit around and decide who is going to heaven or hell. That kind of judging is for God alone, but we are to decide whether or not someone's behavior is evil and deal accordingly. The Scriptures are clear that the prescription for a Christian concerning people who persist in evil is to "expel the wicked man from among you."

Notice in Paul's statement in 1 Cor. that the "greedy" person is condemned just as much as the sexually immoral. The "slanderer" is just as condemned as the idolater. This is important to consider because we often have our own ideas of what is "bad" or "evil". We may not tend to think the "slanderer" and the "greedy" are necessarily wicked, but we have the Bible telling us this is so. As Christians we need to allow the Bible to define evil, not our mother or father and not society.

Some parents force their adult children to honor their parents in the only way left to them, by living an honorable life. As long as you do that, you are honoring your parent.

What about Christ's statement to Peter that we are to forgive "seventy times seven"? You can find the exchange in Matthew 18:21-35. Christ follows this command of the number of times we are to forgive with a parable. What is forcefully portrayed in the parable is the picture of a repentant individual. We have no right to withhold forgiveness to someone who is showing remorse for their actions and is willing to restore what they've taken. In a few verses previous to this instruction (Matt. 18:15-17) is the formula for dealing with someone who has sinned against you. Going to them first privately, then taking two or three witnesses if the private meeting did not result in repentance for a sin against you. Finally, confronting the person in the presence of the congregation. After that, they are to be treated as a "heathen man and publican" by you. The juxtaposition of this instruction with the instruction given to Peter a few verses later has to be reconciled. Christ wasn't contradicting himself. We see a contrast here between a person who is repentant and a person who refuses to repent. Big difference in how we are to deal with them. Please note that Matt. 18:15-17 is about dealing with something objective. A "trespass against you" is something that can be objectively determined to be wrong. I have had people try to use this passage to say that their "hurt feelings" are my sin against them. Sorry. Doesn't fly. Sin is measured by an objective standard, the law of God. Hurting someone's feelings because you told the truth doesn't qualify as "sin against them". Narcissists twist this all around to suit their own agenda. Don't let them get away with that.

The last principle I'll touch on concerning the fifth commandment is how we deal with our evil parent(s) if they become indigent. We are required to make sure they have food in their stomachs, clothes on their backs and a roof over their head. Not our roof, but a roof. Basic humans needs are to be met. The fact that we are alive today is because they provided these basic things to us when we were helpless and dependent. I don't think a Christian can walk away from an indigent parent without dishonor. (If you have a parent who abandoned you and didn't raise you, and didn't provide any of these things for you as a child then I'm not sure this applies. Follow your conscience. My conscience would say this person is not a parent in any sense of the word.) There are ways to care for a horrid parent from a distance. It doesn't have to be "hands on". Arrangements for their care can be made. Other people can administer that care for a price. I'm not saying we have to take them into our homes in these instances if it would be destructive to our own family. Even social services are available and can be utilized by us to make sure the parent's basic needs are being met.

These are some principles that you can use to guide your thinking on the concept of "cutting off" a parent as it pertains directly to Christians. Remember, by doing so you are not condemning your evil parent. He or she has condemned themselves by their persistence in clinging to, and the excusing of, their evil behaviors. You are accepting the principle of free will. By the Bible's emphasis of two or three approaches to someone who is behaving badly and then leaving them to themselves we are seeing God's respect for free will. He does not instruct His people to violate the principle of free will because free will is a God-given principle. God Himself will not violate free will. We are to recognize what people are freely choosing to do and leave them to their decision if they persist in evil. You, by choosing to accept your evil parent's decision to persist in their abuse and cruelties, are simply acquiescing to their decision. Since you can not honor God and honor an evil parent at the same time, you are left with one alternative...to remove yourself. As long as they are unrepentant, you have no other choice but to "expel the wicked one from among you."

The fifth commandment is not a cloak for an evil parent to wear to protect themselves from all accountability. We are all accountable to each other for how we behave toward each other. It may be that our persistently evil parent(s) may force us to separate ourselves from them in order that we can fulfill our obligations to our own families, but by living honorable lives we bring honor to the name of our parents in the eyes of others. By refusing to publicly shame our parents, we honor them. So, even if separated from evil parents we are able to still honor them in a way that doesn't dishonor God.

8 comments:

Barbara said...

The only problem being that religious Jews also accuse those who point out what others, including a parent, has done as

LOSHAN HARA
or
CHILLUL HASHEM

Both are overbroad interpretations of the Talmud meaning "shut up and stop telling the the truth"

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. It was a very good take on this dilemma.

My father, whom I believe is a narcissist loved/(s) to use this commandment to justify controlling the lives of his children. He used it when we were children to support his bullying behavior and feels justified on using it on his adult children as well.

He would provoke us (his children)to wrath with words and sometimes violence and when we responded with anger he noted how concerned he was for our souls given our behavior. There was always a double standard of accountability. He, the father, was in no danger for his behavior but we were in terrible danger.

When I make decisions regarding my college/post college education (which he didn't pay for), he implies slyly that not listening (doing exactly what he wants) will lead to my untimely death.

He even notes the tragic death of one of his own friends' daughters as being "I don't know but I think (her dating a man whom her father disliked) that had something to do with it." The young woman died of an illness that was not an STD or otherwise received from her boyfriend. I find my father's mention of her death to be disrespectful to the girl and her father. He'd never say anything like that publicly though.

The sad part is that I think he believes that. In his world people who refuse to follow orders from birth until death from their parents will likely die early and go to Hell. As for his following his own father's orders, I don't believe he did so. Of course, he is perfect in his mind though he'd swear on hiss life that "I know I'm not perfect." That statement is almost always followed with a "but...".

That use of the commandment to instill fear and maintain permanent control is abusive behavior. It was more than him encouraging us to follow the rules. It was going to college x "because he said so." It was/is placing a tv stand on the left in your own apt. instead of the right because "that's where it should go" according to him.

I always knew that something wasn't quite right with his use of this commandment to justify his bullying but as a young girl (especially pre-teen) it was difficult to argue with his logic.
I did at least understand that there was a difference between honor and obey.

He has fashioned himself as a sort of God in his own mind whereby being the "father" gives him carte blanche to control, bully, treat his children however he sees fit. This is not right but I didn't realize how not right things were in my family until I went to college. Over the years since then, I have seen more and more how wrong things are in my family. Of course, the other members are fine with things for the most part or at least complacent.

My mother is controlling as well so they're two peas in a pod - a pod with which I plan to have less and less contact.

I just wanted to get that off my chest. :)

Freedom Fighter said...

Thank you so much for this insightful blog! I had tears running down my cheeks reading it. I have a mother who is a "Christian." I also am a Christian. My mom's behaviors seem mostly evil to me than anything close to the heart and mind of God. She is one of the most selfish, self centered people I know. She often tells myself and my children of "prophectic" words she has over our life. Such as "God told me you're having a boy when I was pregnant. I had a girl. She laughed and said, "oh you poor thing, you are going to have to have another baby, because I KNOW I heard from God." She is always saying "God told her this or that" none of the things she says has EVER come true. If you try and tell her that her false confessions are dangerous, she becomes irrate and points her finger in your face that you would ever question a woman of God who hears from the Lord almighty. Her husband is passive and bows down to her and she stomps all over him. When he tries to speak up she tells him to SHUT UP! and "don't you dare question what God has spoken to me." Over the years I've seen she is jealous, she envies what other have, she desires riches and "claims" always that God is going to make her a millionaire and at 70 she is in overwhelming debt. She is pre occupied what others think of her and always wants to be viewed as "the spiritual head" When her best friend died of 35 years, she had a falling out with her and never shed a tear. She said, "it doesn't surprise me" She is cold, lacks empathy and always abandons me in my darkets times. "I am an adult child of what I believe is a narcissistic mom." When I named my daughter Becca, she said she didn't like it, it wasn't sweet enough and that she was going to call her Becky. Which my daughter can't stand and I specifically did not want her to be a Becky.

Well you are getting the picture. I've tried to talk to her. Anytime you confront her even in the most compassionate manner, she become enraged that your would dare question anything she does. She quickly cuts you off and perceives you as the enemy. She refuses correction. Oh my...watch out. All hell breaks forth if you try and tell she may be incorrect.

Your blog really helped me. I can't even tell you!

Amy said...

I admire your post very much - but I am quite certain you are speaking about the Fourth, not about the Fifth Commandment which would be "Thou shalt not kill."
Just wanted to point that out. :-)

Anna Valerious said...

Thanks, Amy. Actually, in the King James Version of the Bible the fourth commandment is the one that begins, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." The fifth commandment is the one about honoring our parents.

APRIL P said...

There's power in numbers!The only way to stop the NARC is by speaking out and bringing awareness to their evil, incurable disorder. I'm the daughter/scapegoat child of a malignant narcissist. I'm 35 and I've been fighting the NARC my etire life. I wasn't able to "title" her until just recently, I finally came across NPD. My life flashes before my eyes, reading stories that are oddly similar to my roller coaster. I sincerely felt like I woke up from a coma when I came out of denial. "The heart gets confused when it's constantly told, I love you, by the same one that's trying to destroy it." to be cont...

APRIL P said...

I have two daughters, ages 5 and 12. Now that my eyes are open to "its" relentless evil,NC is the only way. If I allowed any contact I would be consciously allowing my kids to be abused with the ending goal to be ripping us apart forever. Don't feel guilty that you have the integrity and courage to survive the NARC and stop the cycle! My oldest daughter and I have a lot of conflict because of the abuse via the NARC. She's old enough to talk to about this disorder so I've started gently bringing it up and trying to get her to open up but the psychological fear (& want) is so strong, I can see across her face. I'm trying to follow all the steps and "learn what a child normally gets organically as an infant, toddler, adolecent," daily journal keeping, therapy and a lot of reading blogs like this. Thank you for this! We don't get much comfort. There is comfort, a sense of belonging and sense of community in hearing stories from people that have actually been through it with their NARCs. She used spoiling (her favorite) and brainwashing to abuse my daughter. I now take my daughter and I to family therapy and I do a lot of praying. It's hard for me to let my guard down and I don't think I've ever known true peace a day in my life, but I will.Our NARC finally ruined the relationship completely between my brother and I a month before my sister-in-law had their baby, so I've never met my only nephew. NARC had had "all she would take from my attacks of the queen herself," (aka defending my own human rights)and started a bigger smear campaign than ever before, using my daughters in her disturbia. She told me, "I've already buried you a thousand times." The next thing I know my kids are being "showcased" all over social media in her 'big ways' and of course since wolves always travel in packs, usually pictured with the NARC and the large, smiling extended family as though I was dead or did not exsist, I was no where to be seen or spoke of. NARC needed a funeral, my funeral. I didn't give her one. I told her in a bold, abrasive message that anymore attepts to contact us and I will go to court and get a NC order. Secrets and status are huge in the NARC world, so tarnishing her record in a court, that's the only situation she seems to notice. Sadly, deep down I know it will come to that because NARC is relentless. I can only assume she's preying on my brother's new baby. My bro in complete oblivion of what she is and his wife isn't going to know what hit her. Bro is 7 years younger than me, the golden child. Bro & I were close until this. As soon as I became aware of NPD, I passed the information on to Dad. I hope for bro to "get it."I asked Dad to please, sober up and remember what he can and listen to my painful childhood stories he needed to know how dangerous NARC is.Need him to FINALLY stand up! I said, "Dad, you have to hear this, you are not keeping the peace, you are being controlled by her to this day and you're enabling her behavior." I was 13 when they divorced, finally. Before that, he was either working or she would chase him to the bar and then get "sympathy??" by making me call and/or go in all the small town bars at ages 10-12 & beg him to come home. Publicly humiliating him, tramatizing me,somehow not seeing her doing obvious, in the open, evil, abuse (NARC evil usually is done using someone else or in a sneaky way--hard to imagine no one said anything to "us brainwashed" about the NARC forcing a kid to 'run the bars'?!" NARC sat in the driver's seat of our car for her little spy, me, to come back out from bar. Then NARC played the victim card.

APRIL P said...

She never wanted him to come home, I see now. She would trap him into being terrorized in our own home physically and emotionally abusing him, him seeing me witness it and knowing he had to leave so I wouldn't "see it", unable to end the fight, ever.Me, a Mom, with my two kids, I used to think, the NARC just hates me, as long as I'm not around when she has my kids, there is no abuse. WRONG. Come to find out that is exactly what Dad thought with me.The NARC "mother" will absolutely be the NARC "grandmother." Somehow during that type of abuse all dad saw was his bad behavior and all I, don't remember having many emotions, I was just a NARC robot with natural survival mechanisms up.I remember feeling only "for" others. Dad looked ashamed, trapped and mortified in that bar, so that's how I "felt." As long as I was "seeing how anyone but the NARC felt," I was ok. My biggest fear was to become anything like her.