To Be Worthy of Honor

 In Character, Family, Fred's Blog, Giving, Relationships, Trust

Listen to “To Be Worthy of Honor” by Fred Smith

 

Most of us are first made to read Shakespeare before we have enough life experience to even partially understand his genius. It wasn’t until I was teaching King Lear in senior English – and had a daughter of my own – before I realized King Lear was so much about his tangled relationship with his daughters and desperate attempt to pass off responsibility without giving up privilege. It was the tragic tale of a father demanding love and honor – things that could only be earned.

Years went by and I didn’t reread King Lear until much later when I was co-teaching “The Wise Art of Giving” with Os Guinness and Dan Russ at the Trinity Forum. Something happened I have never forgotten or even fully appreciated until recently. Successful, wealthy men in midlife were sitting around a table looking for ways to leave a legacy to their children but, instead, were taught far deeper wisdom through Shakespeare’s play. These men for the first time saw themselves in Lear and it brought them to tears. Shakespeare’s words had become a mirror and not merely a drama.

And just like Lear, the men had been oblivious to why and how their children might not honor them in the ways they expected. They too realized how they had used power, control and privileges to bind their children to themselves. All this came from rereading – and for the first time understanding – something each of us had read so many years ago

“Honor your father and mother so that it may go well with you,” is something we often talk about in Christian circles. We have mistakenly taught obedience as an end in itself instead of a means to a better end. In limiting the instruction to honor parents by obedience we have missed our own responsibility to be honorable and ourselves worthy of the honor we expect.

God is worthy of honor and glory by virtue of being honorable himself. The same should be true of us. We are to be worthy of honor and respect.

So what does it look like for us as parents and grandparents to honor our children and grandchildren – and be worthy of receiving honor?

Lifelong Wisdom

I like to study the roots of words. “Honor” is the Hebrew word “kabod” which describes weight, glory and substance. It is not the heaviness of a burden but more like the weight of a ballast that gives stability and integrity.

Learning what it means to honor God (and each other) comes from the tradition of wisdom being passed along through generations of real people knitted together over a long time. It is not a sudden revelation. It is absorbed from parents and children listening to each other’s lives.

I had an advantage because my father wrote down his poetry, letters and thoughts. At one point his instruction meant almost nothing to me as I had no life experience to connect with what he was saying. When after his death I was able to circle back later in life I would read his words and think “I felt that! That’s true for me, too!” I was finally able to hear him in a way I simply wasn’t ready for when younger. The same will be true for you, I hope.

With my own daughters, I have found taking the time to listen has been one of the most valuable things I have done to honor them not only as my daughters but as individuals and adults. I am genuinely interested in their lives and they continually teach me things I wouldn’t understand otherwise.

I’ve worked hard continuing to grow and remain open to their “rereading” my life as things that shaped me could not be understood or valued by them when they were children. Truth be told, I didn’t have much wisdom to impart to them when I was younger. I had rules and structure to offer my children. I had the basic “grammar” of being a parent, but I didn’t have much to say. For too many years I thought my role was primarily launching them when they were old enough to leave. It’s not true. Our role is to be a lifelong source of wisdom for them and to keep earning the privilege of being honored – not just obeyed.

To be worthy of honor is to accept the responsibility of teaching and living in a way that matters. It is being an example of growing toward maturity. It is being fully aware of our role to be a source of wisdom that matures – not one who stopped growing. It is welcoming age and the continuing obligations we have to pass on wisdom and, ultimately, to give ourselves away to those we love.

Art by Maria Surducan

 

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Showing 19 comments
  • Avatar
    Kerry Hasenbalg
    Reply

    Absolutely brilliantly articulated!! Fred, thank you! To demand honor is itself not honorable. And to use the scriptures to demand honor without a willingness to hear the needs and truth of others or repent of one’s sin simply because of being accustomed to receiving honor from outside fans or “BIRGERS“ (those who bask in the reflected glory of money, fame, and wealth), has harmed far far too many children and working subordinates. Shakespeare saw this then, and it can be clearly seen now, particularly in the places of extreme worldly affluence and influence. A timely and well-penned piece, again!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Kerry. You and I have seen more of this, probably, than most people but it is hard to help others in the middle of it see it and realize what it has done to generations of families. It is almost always a revelation, isn’t it?

  • Avatar
    Joe McIlhaey
    Reply

    This so hits the mark for me and us older guys I think (maybe ladies too). I have also seen this change in myself-from the busy hard charging doctor-and with three daughters, hate to admit it, sort of on the side, getting them to church and exposing them to the rules of life (actually a little too critical of Marion and me but still sort of true). Instead we should have, as you said here, been taking time to have the deeper conversations about wisdom. But like you, I’m not sure I had much of that. Praise God, I am now listening, even to my very leftist daughter. And honestly love is flowing both ways from all of us. It is wonderful for this 85 year old Dad with cancer😊

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      I love this, Joe. This is progress! Talking and listening doesn’t have to mean changing minds, does it?

  • Avatar
    Peter Joseph Kubasek
    Reply

    Fred – WOW
    WOW
    so heart FILLING to read and hear of our PATH to wisdom and honor in honoring those in our life -THANK YOU

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Peter! That is so encouraging to me!

  • Avatar
    Brian Decker
    Reply

    Good word, Fred. Reminds me of the adage: most of what children learn is caught not taught. My children are watching me more than they are listening to what I say. Convicting! (BTW- I think I have thus far journeyed through life without having read King Lear! Sounds like a must read.)

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Yes, they are watching! Yes, read Lear!

  • Avatar
    Lisa Wen
    Reply

    Love this, Fred. Your words and wisdom on this subject will serve as a guide for my relationship with Ellie (now that she is a young adult) as I navigate my path to being a mother worthy of honor.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Lisa. This is so encouraging to me. Please give Ellie my love.

  • Avatar
    Eddie Hutton
    Reply

    Thanks for your words on life I enjoy an look forward to receiving it. This one made me think how blessed I am to have had 2 Christian parents that loved an cared about me as a person. Thanks Fred

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Eddie. This is encouraging.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Eddie! You are fortunate indeed.

  • Avatar
    John Cheng
    Reply

    Always blessed by your words, your children’s children will also be.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. That is my hope as well.

  • Avatar
    Laura Houston
    Reply

    Thank you, Fred. Honoring my father in the midst of a difficult adult relationship is something I’ve struggled with as a believer for decades. Understanding exactly how that looks (and feels) in real life has at times been a mysterious endeavor. This gave me some ways to think about it freshly. And to give some grace to him in the totality of life – as I hope my son will with me as we BOTH mature.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Laura. Sometimes the beat we can do is break the generational chain and decide we will be honorable for our children. Sometimes there is healing with our own fathers and that is even better.

  • Avatar
    Michael Meadows
    Reply

    Fred: WOW is right! This is a brilliant and impactful piece. As the father to a 24 year old son and 15 year old daughter, your wise words come at a perfect time, particularly as the four of us are living together and are more isolated from others due to the pandemic. As odd as it may sound, this pandemic has been a blessing because it has knitted us closer together. That said, your piece will shape how Amy and I approach our interactions going forward. We always tell our kids that we want to help them become the best versions of themselves. Listening to them and honoring what they tell us is critical to that process. Thanks again for sharing your wisdom with all of us.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      You were raised by people worthy of honor and respect. I have no doubt you and Amy are doing the same. Your children will rise up and call you blessed!

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