The mother-child relationship is one of warmth, nurturing, patience and love–or so it ought to be. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences such support from their mother.
If you have been raised by a toxic parent, you know how hurtful and confusing it can be. Whether you suffered physical abuse or the unseen effects of manipulative, self-centered behavior, you know that the pain runs deep.
(I’m not referring to a mother who disagrees with you, or has a different personality than you do, or who doesn’t give you everything you ask for. Rather I am referring to a mother who consistently displays toxic behavior–see How to Deal with a Toxic Mother for more signs.)
If anyone else in your life treated you this way, you would run for the hills, but something keeps you coming back.
That’s because there is a bond between mother and child. Ideally it is a natural, nurturing bond, but when the parent is toxic, that bond isn’t based on true love.
The bible says that we are to “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
Maybe you’ve read this scripture before and it made you cringe. Maybe honoring your mother is the last thing you desire to do. But for many whom I counsel and coach, there is a part of them that truly wants to honor God’s Word by honoring their mother, they just don’t know how.
It’s not easy to honor someone who has done so much damage in your life.
Here are 6 ways to fulfill God’s Word without exposing yourself to further harm:
Honor tip #1: Accept her humanity
Honoring your toxic mother means accepting her humanity, not judging her mistakes. When you do, judgment falls on you and you become the very thing you were judging.
Honor tip #2: Be the change
I have seen it countless times: a woman sits in my office complaining about her toxic mother, but as she recounts their interactions, it’s clear that the daughter is equally toxic in her behavior. I realize that you have likely learned toxic behavior by example, but you don’t need to remain stuck there, and it’s certainly not an excuse for you to behave badly.
Honor tip #3: Pray for her
When was the last time you prayed for your mother? (And no, I don’t mean pray for something bad to happen to her.) I mean really prayed for her. Jesus said to pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:28). I know, I know; it’s not easy. But as you lift up your prayers for her, your heart changes and God is able to work in her life.
Honor tip #4: Forgive her
Forgiveness unburdens you from the weight that was place on you by someone else’s sin. Not forgiving is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. It also keeps you in the role of vindicator – a role truly held only by God – and keeps justice from doing its perfect work. If you don’t know how to forgive, check out How to Forgive a Toxic Mother.
Honor tip #5: Love her from your safe place
Just because you honor someone it doesn’t mean you have to remain in an abusive situation. Your job is to get healing for the damage done to your heart and soul. Even then, you don’t have to return to a full relationship with her. If her actions or words are too damaging, you may need to consider some distance. It is possible to honor from afar.
Honor tip #6: Pull from Jesus
You will likely be unable to do any of this in your own strength. Your worldly nature will say, “Pay back,” and “Prove her wrong.” To resist these impulses requires supernatural strength. Ask the Holy Spirit to heal your emotions, guard your tongue, and make you into the person you were intended to be. You’re going to need His help.
If you’re struggling with a toxic mother or dealing with other difficult people in your life, I invite you to grab a copy of my FREE Toxic People Survival Guide.