Must we honor abusive parents?

Simple, yet complicated question.

My 67 year old wife’s parents are 94 and 85. Her 94 year old father is frail and weak & has been in and out of the hospital with heart, kidney and lung issues. Her 85 year old stepmother has final stages of Alzheimers and needs constant attention but she is in decent health and should certainly outlive her husband.

We blessed them with 4 grandchildren and they have ignored my wife and their grandchildren for 40+ years. Instead they have given all their time and treasure to a single grandchild from an illicit relationship.

To add fuel to the fire, their almost $1M estate is being willed to the one grandchild and my wife and her two siblings, along with the other grandchildren basically get nothing.

My wife and I are in very good financial shape as are our children, but my wife’s sister has nothing but a small Social Security check and no savings whatsoever.

So here is where it gets complicated. They have the money to move to an assisted living faciltiy, but they would rather have their children take care of them, even though they have basically done squat for them for over 40 years and they will receive very little of their estate.

A deacon friend, before he passed, told me that even though one can leave their estate to anyone of their choosing, it doesn’t make it right to ignore one’s children.

So, is “Honor one’s mother and father” absolute?

My wife is torn over this and it obviously is hurting our marriage for her to be gone for a week at a time, taking care of parents that ignored her and our grandchildren.

Any advice?

My wife’s dad refuses to put his wife in memory care and pressure is being put on my wife to start taking care of them for a week at a time, even though we live 180 miles away.

They have plenty of money to enter into a memory care facility but they won’t consider it. My wife’s mother has no idea where she is at any point, but my wife’s father wants her to die at home, which may be several years after he dies as she is in good health.

My perspective on this may be different than others’. I do not believe anyone is entitled to someone else’s private property or time.

When someone complains about how someone planned a Wedding or a Funeral I have attended, my response is, “It is not your Wedding/Funeral.” If someone complains how someone more wealthy than them spends their money, my response is, “It is not your money.” This falls under the sin of envy or coveting.

When my Dad died, my sister-in-law thought she was entitled to my Dad’s stuff (as if she had won the lottery). I was too busy grieving the loss of my Dad to care. My Dad was not the best Dad when he drank, but when he was sober, he was the best.

I have forgiven my Dad. And I have forgiven my sister-in-law.

My Brothers and I planned my Dad’s funeral the best way we knew how (we were kids). Adults who could have stepped in and offer us help were the ones criticizing our choices during and after the funeral. In hindsight, we should have asked for help (did I mention we were kids ; )

Material things are less important than relationships. I have seen families ripped apart over greed, envy, and sense of entitlements.

My advice is to understand that you/I are not other people. And other individuals are not you/me. Though we wish another would do the thing(s) we would do, we can only offer to help or to ask for help. We cannot force others to be like us.

Bishop Barron once defined Love as “to will the good of another (in health, happiness, truth, moral rectitude, and salvation).” He went on to say, “We also desire to give them our very selves (1 Thess. 2:8).”

I hope this brings clarity. Know that I am not judging you, but rather sharing my perspective.

I’d like to close with The Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.

O Lord, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is in dying that one awakens to eternal life.

Thanks for the quick reply Cade.

The hard part is that they seem to expect that it is their children’s duty to take care of them and they have heaped a ton of guilt on my wife and her sister, neither of which are emotionally strong enough to handle it.

I’m not as nice as my wife and I think that it was their duty to be nice to my wife while she was growing up and acknowledging that they were blessed with grandchildren.

And again, while inheritance is nice, we don’t need it, but my sister-in-law does. Once the dad’s estate was set up as a irrevocable trust with the one grandchild on it, the kid decided that he would no longer chip in with his time and told everyone that as a grandchild he had no obligation to help, even though the grandparents did everything for him including putting him through college, something they only did for him. I guess there is nothing worse than a thankless grandchild also.

BTW, the grandkid is a 40 year old.

So, back to the original question. “must one honor abusive parents?”

This sounds like a parable in of itself ; )

There might be a sense of entitlement on the part of the aging parents/grandparents, however there are many passages in Sacred Scripture addressing the care of elderly family members. Here are just a few:

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” — 1 Timothy 5:8 (see also Leviticus 20:9 and Matthew 15:4-6)

“If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.” — Proverbs 20:20

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…” — 2 Timothy 3:2

I am also reminded at the foot of the Cross, when Jesus gives Mary (his mother) to John “and from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (19:25-27).

As far as the 40 year old grandchild goes, as a forty year old grandchild of the best Grandparents anyone could be privileged with, I did not want to see my Grandparents very sick. I wanted to remember them better. This was very selfish on my part. Though my Grandpa did not want us to see him at his worst either. He was a World War II veteran — A quiet and stoic man who loved his Family greatly, but seldom verbalized it. He showed it more in his actions.

I still would e-mail my Grandma on the first of every month (since I am the first grandchild this was easy to remember). She passed a few months ago. Each of her children (my Aunts & Uncles and their spouses) would take shifts caring for my Grandma, as she too did not want to go to an assisted living (even though my parents own and care for the aging at a very nice assisted living campus). My Grandma would visit and play cards with the residents there, but she always wanted to return “home” after visiting.

Again, I think you are too focused on what others are doing or not doing. We can only control what we do or not do. What is God asking of us? To love (even those whom it is hard to love). We are also called to forgive (even those whom it is hard to forgive).

One day, we will be old (God willing) and perhaps we will have others hold things that we have done in our lives against us. Maybe we will feel entitled or stubborn. The way our culture is headed, they will probably euthanize all of us when we are no longer considered viable (which is purely evil). This just took a dark turn.

I will Pray for your situation. I think we all battle with selfishness, greed, pride, ego, favoritism, and disobedience at various stages of our lives.

We should allow God’s grace in, to help us overcome these disordered behaviors.

“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and the crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

I think this term “crooked places” is a perfect description of your situation. Crooked. God wants to make straight that which is disordered in your/my life. Ask God to show you the path that He wills for you and let go of all the resentment from past hurts (I know easier said than done, which is why we need grace). “He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3: 5).

My Prayers are with you and your Wife as you Pray Come Holy Spirit.

Thanks Cade,

It is very difficult for me to try to show kindness to anyone that has crapped on my wife her whole adult life and caused her and our kids to cry a river of tears.

I’ve talked to a good friend of mine that is the best priest that I’ve ever known and he understands that we are in a difficult situation and his advice, of course, is to pray and to work on my forgiveness. No surprise there. :grinning:

Still, the husband and man in me, as I ofttimes say, reverts to caveman mode and anyone that messes with my family is to be avoided.

God Bless

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