When Parents Fail


Since I’ve been home I’ve been trying hard to mend my relationship with my mother.  Asking her to do things for me instead of brushing aside any offer of help, as I did for years out of anger.  Letting her handle all the money I won.  Returning her hugs instead of tolerating them.  My time in the arena made me realize how I needed to stop punishing her for something she couldn’t help, specifically the crushing depression she fell into after my father’s death.  Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.  (31-32)

Katniss’ mom had failed her horribly.  When Katniss’ dad died, her mom spiraled into debilitating depression.  Katniss had to keep them all alive, and she had been punishing her mom for it ever since.  Being in the games had given her some grace and some perspective.  She began to realize that her mom didn’t mean to fail her; she simply couldn’t give what she didn’t have, and life had taken everything from her.  Everything…at least on the inside.

The Bible says to honor our parents.  It’s a commandment.  It doesn’t say honor your parents if they deserve it.  It says:  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2.  You are to obey and honor because it’s the right thing to do.  AND – you’re given a promised blessing if you do so.  Not every commandment promises a blessing just for obeying it.  This one does.  Maybe God knew how hard it would be at times and wanted to be sure we had some added incentive.  Like a chore chart.

Katniss learned that she should have honored her mother, not because she did such a stellar job in the hard times, but because “because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.” That’s called grace.  We need to give that kind of grace to our parents too.  You know why?  Because they were children at one point in time too, and things happened to them that marked them.  Sometimes those things helped them become better people and better parents and better equipped to handle life.  Other times those things have the opposite effect—they break our parents in little ways, or blind them in certain areas, so that they are not equipped to respond well to certain things in life.  Like Katniss, we may know why our parents get it wrong sometimes, or we may not.  We may be completely in the dark about why they don’t handle certain things better, but know that there is certainly a reason, and that if we knew it, we would probably be able to give them a little more grace, a little more honor.

Here’s the cool reality:  her mom’s failures at home turned out to be Katniss’ blessings in the arena – she was prepared because of what she had suffered taking care of the family when her mom couldn’t.  It was a frustrating thing, a hard thing for Katniss that she lost both her parents for much of her childhood, but it ended up being her salvation.

The places where your parents fail you in some way or another will mark you in some way.  It can make you bitter and cripple you if you let it.  OR, it can become a blessing in your life, if you choose to respond with grace and honor, because it’s the right thing to do.  Trust that their shortcomings are the very things God will use to strengthen and equip you to meet your future if you let Him.

For now, the Bible is clear.  You are to honor your parents.[1]

Questions for Discussion:

  • Have your parents ever failed you?  (Be careful how you answer this.  Do so humbly, gracefully, without dishonoring them.)
  • How did you respond?  Do you think they felt your disappointment, anger, resentment, etc?
  • Have you ever failed your parents?   How did they respond to you?
  • How would grace change your relationship with your parents, and your sense of respect and honor for them?
  • It took surviving the games for Katniss to finally extend grace to her mom.  What do you think it would take for you to extend grace to your parents?
  • Her mom’s failures were Katniss’ blessings.  How could God turn your parents’ shortcomings with you into blessings in your life?
  • What can you do to show honor to your parents?
  • Are you more motivated to honor your parents knowing that there is a blessing promised to those who do so?

By Stacey Tuttle

[1] Children need to obey.  Honoring, however, is for everyone, at all times.   If you truly honor them, you’ll obey them as long as it is right to do so.