Danny Silk is a pastor from California who specializes in Christian counseling. I’ve studied quite a bit of his material as part of a team building group I was in during college. I also often use his premarital counseling material with young couples, too. You can explore more of his organization Loving on Purpose by clicking here.
One of the crucial things I gleaned from Silk’s teaching is how he approaches human development. He argues that everyone has a toolbox, so to speak, filled with “tools” for interacting with one another. These include anything from conflict resolution to how we communicate love. Ideally, we would have a healthy, complete toolbox.
We received these “tools” from our parents and other adults we encountered from a very early age. We watch and observe how people interact with others. We see how a father treats his spouse, and vice versa. We see how a parent or relative interacts with a child. We learn about consequences when we are disciplined. And we learn from all these observations over the years. For example, when a parent treats a stranger with kindness, we gain that “tool” for ourselves–hopefully we remember in the future to imitate what we saw and be friendly to people we meet!
The problem, however, is that our toolboxes are always incomplete or deficient in some way or another. This problem obviously arises with dysfunctional families. Perhaps a mother did not control her anger too well, so we were left with a deficient “toolset” and are unable to control our emotions. Maybe a father always had a negative outlook on life, so he gave us a tendency to be worrisome or fearful. If we saw parents in our childhood resolve conflict through screaming and throwing dishes against the wall, there is a chance we might come to think of that act as “normal” for our future life. If we don’t develop healthy emotional tools, we are stuck with a broken toolbox.
And perhaps most notably, our emotional and psychological toolboxes become lacking when we have absent parent figures, too. If a father or mother was never around, children tend to look for other parental figures to learn about the world–whether that be from a grandparent, neighbor, relative, or even a depiction of parenthood on television or a movie. Sometimes, we are successful in gaining these missing tools from an absent mom or dad. Other times, we continue to struggle with how to communicate with people if the problem was never addressed.
Think about that for a moment and ask yourself these reflective questions…
What was my childhood like? Did I learn “good” things from my family? Were my parents supportive? Did my mother and father teach me about faith in Christ?
How did my parents treat me? How did they treat one another? Did they live out a healthy relationship? Or were did they deal with problems in an unhealthy way?
How did my parents fall short? Were one or both of them absent? How did that affect my upbringing? Did another parental figure help me? Or did I struggle with an incomplete emotional toolbox?
This all relates to the 5th commandment of honoring our father and mother. If our parent has given us great tools for our life’s toolbox, then that is obviously cause to be extremely thankful. As I mentioned yesterday, we don’t exactly live in a Jesus-centered culture, and have not been living in one for quite some time.
And this also impacts how we deal with broken parents, too. If our parent gave us lousy tools to face the world, we need to recognize where they fell short. It is important to identify these areas of sin from our family past in order to not repeat them again. Abuse is a major example of this in our world today, so it is important to address broken parts of our past.
Even if you had a picture perfect childhood with involved, faithful parents, we still often struggle with having broken or missing tools in our emotional and psychological health. Sometimes this is due to the mistakes of a mother or father. Other times we break them ourselves or refuse to put into practice what we’ve learned! The point is that we all need to consider what our toolbox looks like.
The good news is that despite our broken toolboxes, despite all our brokenness, and despite our struggles… God still loves us and accepts us. Keeping the 5th commandment means we realize that God is our heavenly parent. And the most important thing we could ever do to honor our earthly parents is to pray for, love, and share God’s grace with them.