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The fifth of the Ten Commandments says to honor your father and mother. If you do, the Bible reads, you’ll live a long life and things will go well. As a child, when you read those words, it seemed pretty simple. How does that command carry over into adulthood?

Watch also: "Moses’ Ten Commandments: Tablets from God?"

As a child, honoring your parents meant doing as you were told, accepting their discipline and expressing gratitude for all the things they did for you. Now you’re grown. You support yourself and are responsible for your own decisions. You may even have children of your own. How do you still follow God’s command to honor your parents? Here are some ways we can apply this verse to our adult lives.

Be Respectful in All Circumstances

Parents can be frustrating. When you’re small, they have so much wisdom. You understand  they know more than you, and it’s right to defer to their experience and knowledge. When you get older, you develop your own strengths and your own point of view.

Sometimes what you think is best causes disagreement between you and your parent. You know more about your situation than they do, so does honoring them mean you still have to do what they say?

Recognize your parents have strong opinions about what you should do because they love you deeply. Even when you don’t agree, express it respectfully. Thank them for their advice and concern. Let them know that even if you don’t choose the path they suggest, you still think they’re extremely wise and you’re glad to have them in your corner.

Be Thankful

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Find ways to thank them for the things they did when you were growing up. Be specific. Thank them for all the hours they gave up driving you to gymnastics or ball practice. Tell them how much you benefitted from all the times they helped you with your homework.

They taught you everything from how to tie your shoes to how to drive. Most of the basic activities you perform every day are possible because your parents taught you.

Thank them not just for what they did, but for the values they instilled in you. If you have a strong work ethic because a parent taught you the value of hard work, communicate that. If you have compassion for the poor because your mother or father worked with the homeless and gave money to those in need, let them know the impact they had on your life.

Bless Them by Being Actively Engaged in Their Lives

Now is your chance to do for them some of the things they did for you. Take them out to lunch. When they’re sick, stop by with soup. When you’re at the grocery store, text and ask if you can pick up anything they need. As they get older, offer to take them to doctor’s appointments or clean their house.

Sometimes our most difficult relationships are with those closest to us. Even if your relationship with your parents is strained, seek ways to honor God by honoring your mother and father.

When things get hard, How to Pray for People You Don’t Like (But are Commanded to Love) offers sound advice.

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