Part six of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”

Habit #6 – A Successful Person Understands the Importance of Family

By Kevin Riggs

Mark Twain is credited with saying: “When l was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”  Ever since the first child in history hit puberty, there has been a generation gap between parents and their offspring. The older generation has always thought the younger generation was disrespectful, and the younger generation has always looked at the older generation as being out of touch.

God bridged the gap between generations when He commanded, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” At different stages in my life, my relationship with my parents has changed. One attitude that must never change, however, is that of honor and respect. Honor, not only for my parents, but also for the institution of marriage.

The Fifth Commandment doesn’t say, “Honor your parents if they did a good job,” or “Honor your parents only when you feel like it.” This Commandment doesn’t even say, “Honor your parents if they are Christians.” The reason for the honor is wrapped up in the position of parenthood, not in the quality of the individual parent.  It is also important to notice that God did not differentiate between the father and the mother. Both are equal; both deserve respect.

The word “honor” comes from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be heavy” or “to carry weight.” The opposite of honor is to treat something “lightly.” The role of a parent deserves to be respected and held in high esteem. To disrespect parenthood is to treat it as if it were light and worthless.

Commandment Five carries a promise: “. . . that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” What does this promise mean? How can honoring my parents prolong my life?

First of all, if I honor my parents, my quality of life is better. My parents were not perfect, but neither was I the perfect child. My parents did give me the gift of life, and I believe my life is more enjoyable because I chose to honor them instead of showing them disrespect.

Second, by honoring my parents, my emotional stability increases. Moses repeated this command, saying, “Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee.”

If I cut myself off from my parents, remaining bitter towards them, I cut myself off from a full life. Furthermore, it is within the context of a family that I have the chance to learn, grow and build relationships. All of which helps me live a healthy, stable life, the meaning behind, “that it may go well with thee.”

Habit #5

The Fifth Commandment exhorts me to honor my parents, but the fifth habit goes beyond doing that alone. The fifth habit is as follows: A highly successful person understands the importance of family. How important is the family? I believe my family comes above everything except my relationship with God.

My family is more important than my career goals, my church, my financial achievements, my volunteer activities and my personal happiness. For me to understand the importance of family means that I must understand and accept the roles God has given each family member, especially my own.

Husbands Love

Within the family, my role as a husband is to show unconditional, sacrificial love to my wife. I am to love her as Christ loved the Church. That means I should never refer to my wife in derogatory terms. It also means I should never blame my wife for my failures, saying, “If you would just show me more support, then . . . .” Christ never called the Church names, and He never blamed her, even though she was far from perfect.

To love my wife as Christ loves the Church means I defend her at all costs. It means I build her up, protect her reputation, and defend her honor and integrity. To love her as Christ loves the Church means I am willing to die for her, sacrificing everything. To understand the importance of family, I must accept my role in that family.

Wives Submit

Biblical submission has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority.  In fact, the Fifth Commandment suggests equality between sexes and between parents. Furthermore, to submit does not mean a woman remains in a situation where there is physical danger or where she is asked to do immoral things.

To submit does mean, for the sake of family unity, that a wife voluntarily places herself under the leadership of her husband. It means she supports him, refusing to tear him down—especially in front of the children. The reason the wife is asked to submit is because the main responsibility for the health and welfare of the family rests on the husband’s shoulders. When the husband fulfills his role in the home, then submission is not an issue, but a privilege.

Children Obey

Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children obey your parents . . . .” The idea behind “children” refers to all dependents living at home, regardless of age. The principle is simple: If your parents pay your bills, you are obligated to obey them. A child does not obey his parents because they are perfect or because they know more. They are to obey because that is how they show honor, and that is how they show their commitment to Christ.

Parents Honored

The Fifth Commandment encompasses two truths. First, parents are to be honored. Second, parents are to be honorable. As a parent, I cannot force my children to honor me, but I can make them hate me. Thus, the Fifth Commandment is as much for me as a parent as it is for my children. I must continually ask myself, “Am I parenting in such a way that my children can honor me?”

God gave me the responsibility of raising my children. Therefore I am accountable to God for how I raise them, a thought that scares me. I must confess that I don’t know how to be a parent.  But one thing I do know—l want to parent in such a way that my children will desire to honor me. At the very least, I don’t want to parent in such a way that gives them reasons to dishonor me.

Being a good parent starts with my relationship with my Heavenly Father and continues with my relationship to my own parents. That is why my obedience to the Fifth Commandment is so important.

What about you? When was the last time you showed your parents honor? Have you accepted your God-given role in the family? Do you need to ask forgiveness for harmful things you have said and done in the past? Do you need to reach out to your parents, reconnecting with them? Do you need to accept your role in yow family?

Have you allowed other things to come before your family? Are you a loving husband? A submissive wife? An obedient child? An honorable parent? Do you need to apologize to your spouse and children? Do you need to pray, recommitting your family to God? If I ask your spouse and children if they think you are a success, how will they answer? Remember, a highly successful person understands the importance of family.

Article adapted from Contact magazine, June 2002.