Recently, I was editing a chapter in my new book and was thinking about a section on forgiveness. We all know we should forgive anyone who has called us names, hurt our feelings or offended us. Then I remembered the ten commandments. I was taken back by, “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

How can someone honor their parents if they were abused or neglected? For myself, I can forgive them because they did the best they knew how. That is an excuse that doesn’t justify my, and my siblings, feelings of neglect and worthlessness.

But how does someone who was beaten, abandoned or tortured, honor their parents? I ached inside trying to make sense of the commandment. Then I realized that “honor your father and mother” was not about your parents. It is speaking to you, the child.

You aren’t going to change what has happened. You can’t change anyone, except yourself and how you want to move forward. In order for you to heal you must first respect the fact that they are your parents. But you don’t have to carry any of their actions with you. Put them in the proper perspective of the past. Carrying bitterness and anger will only feed the pain and kill any chance for your joy.

The commandment is about you and how you react to something that was done to you. Is it an easy solution? By no means! But once you take that first step to honor you parents’ place in your life and give your future to God, you will find strength to grow away from the negative impact and toward the abundant life you were promised.

Honoring your parents doesn’t mean putting them on a pedestal or giving them praise they don’t deserve. It can mean seeing them in the light of broken people and not continually complaining about their actions. Honoring may mean not picking fights or arguing when you feel mistreated. Honoring may be letting go of what they did and focusing on what good you can do.

Don’t overlook professional help if you are struggling. Your mind can twist and turn thoughts until you don’t know what is accurate. Counseling may help you straighten out some of the confusion.

Proverbs give us advise on seeking wisdom and finding peace. If we fill our minds with meditation on God’s word, we will have less room or time to be angry over past injustices. Chapter 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

“Honor your father and mother” can become your first step in becoming the person you want to be.