Question: Outgrowing My Parents



Two anons (edited for length):

– I’ve recently made a breakthrough and grown in my relationship with God, and I believe that he’s told me that I was made to dance. I know that it would be foolish not to follow His plan for me, but my mom is so against it and she always calls me childish when I speak about it. I haven’t explained to her that God wants me to use my talents to glorify Him simply because I’m afraid of arguing again … Any advice?

– My parents have become one of the major roadblocks when it comes to my faith. I’ve already attempted to talk about them about this multiple times, but every single time, I’m shot down. We’re pretty heavily involved in the church. However, they don’t approve of most of my friends at church, and have begun to strongly discourage me to attend church events and activities. What should i be doing here …?

 

Hey, I completely understand the drama that comes with family. It’s also very possible that you can outgrow them and make better decisions — but that’s still no excuse to do whatever you want without regard for them.

I’ve hardly ever heard the church teach about when we spiritually outgrow our parents. It tends to be a very imbalanced shriek-session saying “You better honor your parents,” or it becomes a rebellious Western ploy on individualism saying “Ignore the haters, including your parents.” Neither teaching ever works out.

Usually we go one of two extremes, where 1) we try so hard to pull away from our parents that we end up despising them, or 2) we try so hard to please them that we end up miserable.

Sometimes we forget that parents are just people.

By that, I mean –

 

1) Your parents are just as fallible as you or me. When you grow up to become a rational thinking adult, occasionally you will be right, or your parents will be right, or you’ll both be wrong – just like anyone else. They’ll make mistakes, as will you. And at times you’ll need to know when God is calling you to step your foot down.

This doesn’t mean you disrespect them, just as you wouldn’t disrespect anyone else.  It only means you need to weigh each piece of their wisdom, individually.  And just because you’ve “spiritually outgrown” your parents in some areas doesn’t mean you’re better than them, nor does it give you a right to be a jerk about it. You might have spiritually outgrown a drug addict or a homeless guy or a random old person, but it doesn’t mean you can step on them either.

 

2) Your parents are also uniquely broken people. You might think they’re crazy or ridiculous or unfair, but they will almost always have a reason that they act the way they do – just like anyone else. 

I’ve told this story before, but one of my friends had a very overbearing mother. My friend was supernaturally patient with her. When I asked how he was so patient, he said, “When my mom was a kid, she was kidnapped during the Khmer Rouge along with her brothers. She saw all her brothers shot in the head, one by one, right in front of her. You don’t know what that does to a person.”

Your parents have grown up in an era you will never know, with unique challenges and even less advances than we have now. Please be understanding of that.  They struggle, too.

 

Since #1 is true, then be sure of God’s calling for you. Sometimes your parents are just testing your confidence on a decision, and they have every right to do that. If you chase your plans, then your parents will eventually relent and support you. If you give up, they’ll think you never wanted it anyway. 

If you don’t think this is fair, then think for a moment: you already do this with your friends, your church, and your significant other. You earn their respect by continually persisting in reliable consistency. A true friend will press you on your decisions, will make sure you’re not hurting yourself, and will rebuke you when necessary.

For some reason, when our parents do this to us, we just shut down or go nuts. Hold down that urge and let your parents question your dreams too.  And when you know it’s God’s Will — take it all the way.  Even if your parents never approve, they’re just people.

 

Since #2 is true, then put yourself in your parents’ shoes. Nearly their every motive for you is driven by their own fear. I’m not saying this is right, but it’s human.  Please think on how insane it is that they’ve watched you since you were a tiny fetus inside a womb — and all the responsibility they carry.

They go from nursing a baby to holding a preschooler’s hand to seeing you off to college to walking you down an aisle for marriage to watching you raise kids of your own. Your parents are scared to death for you. They are terrified for your safety, prosperity, faith, well-being, and success. The thought of you being out of their sight scares them like crazy.  And even when they do everything right: kids can still turn out to be criminals.

I know there are some exceptions to “good parents,” like if your parents are abusive or neglectful.  But most parents are just barely making it, trying their best by you, hoping not to mess it up.  If they have been even halfway good parents and they flip out over your plans and goals – please try to understand that this parental fear will cause them to react in all sorts of weird ways.  Show them a little grace and let their meltdown pass.  You will also be surprised at their wellspring of wisdom if you hear them first without pushing them away.  Keep your door open.

 

And a last thing: I know it’ll be hard dealing with them. But it’s also hard to deal with you. I’m not saying that to be mean, but because I love you: and I want you to know the full truth. Your parents have had to put up with you when you were unlovable, stubborn, crass, helpless, and all over the place.  As crazy as my parents were, I know they also did way more than I could ever repay.  I will never ever fully know the sacrifice they made for me.

If you’ve had parents who tried even a little, it’s worth to consider their wisdom without immediately thinking they’re wrong.  I’m not saying you do this, but I meet too many people who roll their eyes at their parents way too fast. So it’s totally cool to press forward with your plans: but remember your parents have a say in the matter, that they might freak out, but I believe you’re gracious enough to have some room in your heart to hear them out.

— J.S.

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