Sunday, March 11, 2012

Explaining "Honor" to Kids

Photo by BenedictFrancis
Filial respect is shown by true docility and obedience.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2216)

Back when I was an eighth grade teacher, I tried very hard to make sure my eighth graders understood what it meant to "honor" their father and mother.  Many of them had the mistaken impression that as long as they did what their parents told them, they were following God's commandment.  

After a little prodding I was usually able to get them to admit that even though they eventually ended up doing what mom and dad said, they weren't very respectful while doing it.  Typically during the interchange between them and their parents, the kids admitted to raising their voices, losing their tempers, rolling their eyes, and/or loudly sighing their utter disapproval, etc.  

Sound familiar?

That's when I hit them with the truth.  God's law isn't just about making sure the body or mind is on board-- that's only part of the story! As their creator, God has a right not only to their bodies or minds, but also to their HEARTS! The cold, hard truth was that my students were NOT living up to the Fourth Commandment when they were disrespectful, complaining, and sarcastic . . . EVEN if they ended up doing what mom and dad said!

So, the next time your child (or student) sighs and rolls his eyes while grumpily taking out the trash, pull out Matthew 15:8 on him: "Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'" The look of shock on his face alone will be worth the few minutes it takes to memorize the verse!

Seriously though, obedience by itself is not enough to fulfill the Fourth Commandment. The hard-heartedness of anger and sarcasm shows a lack of "docility" or submissiveness that is part of true respect and honor for parents. 

When trying to help our children understand the depth of the command to "Honor your father and mother," it can help to explain to them this concrete difference: "doing what I say is obedience; doing what I say with a heart that bears no anger is HONOR."

P.S.  Teachers, grandparents, etc. . . . BONUS.  This one applies to you, too!  (CCC 2217 & 2220)

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