4 Kislev 5766
The Challenges of Kibud Av Vaem
Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,
I have written previously about a few problems and I really want to thank you for being involved in this website. It truly gives me such chizuk. I have a situation which I don’t know how to deal with. I don’t have a Rav to talk to about this without feeling uncomfortable because most of the Rebe’em know my family.
I am having major problems with Kibud Av v’Eim. I have a very angry father who constantly yells and blames other people without taking responsibilities. I come home on weekends from college and the first thing I hear my father do is scream and blame and yell. This sets the tone for my coming home and causes me to become upset throughout the weekend.
I cannot bring myself to not hold a grudge against my father when he constantly treats me like nothing. I have tried speaking to him but he gets angrier and never wants to be at fault so will blame me again for why he needs to yell at me in the first place. I really don’t understand how I can treat my father with respect while not feeling respectful. My mother will also not get involved but then not understand why throughout the weekend I’ll be very, as she would call “nasty,” while in fact I’m just extremely hurt. When I have these feelings of animosity toward my parents I can’t help think how immature I am and how abnormal I am because everyone else I know has normal parent-child relationships. I also cant help but blame my parents and not myself when I know I also am at fault at certain times. It makes me feel as though I must not be ready to start dating because I cant even control my anger when I am with my family and I cant even respect my parents, so who would want to date me? It gives me low self esteem when I think badly about them and I really need help because I have no one else to help me.
Thank you so much and tizku l’mitzvos.
Kibud Av viaim is a very difficult mitzva. But we are not even holding by discussing the ins and outs of the mitzva. You have to come to grips with a difficult situation that happens to involve your parents.
Let me tell you a secret that will make your life easier. Parents are only people. Many of them have limitations, sometimes serious limitations. I knew a young women who had been subjected to such terrible physical and sexual abuse that she developed Multiple Personality Disorder just to cope with it. One “self” couldn’t handle all that pain so she developed other “selfs” to channel the negative energy to.
Boruch Hashem, that is not your situation. But you do have a father with a temper. Now you have two basic approaches you can take: you can try to change your father or accept him the way he is.
The older I get, the more I understand the words of Reb Yisroel Salanter; “When I was young I thought I would save the world, then as I got older I thought I would save my country. Eventually I settled for my city and then my neighborhood. Finally I decided I would just save my family. Now I am content to try to save myself.”
There is a reality to life. Your parents are going to be unreasonable, your husband is going to be unreasonable, your children will certainly be unreasonable. Your boss, your coworkers, your neighbors, they will all be unreasonable. Being reasonable is defined best by a bumper sticker I saw once: “Be Reasonable – Do It MY Way!”
You have to refocus and tell yourself that your father is a nice person, but he’s limited. He will not understand everything you want him to, he will not act the way you want him to and that is reality. But just as when our children don’t listen to us, we don’t reject them (hopefully), so we don’t reject our parents for not being what we would like them to be.
Prepare yourself mentally before you go home. Tell yourself, “I am going into a makom nisayon”. Remember that your father has a problem. It is not YOUR problem, it is his problem and it is a nebech. I’m sure your father would love deep down to be a calm reasonable person. People tend to yell and scream because they feel they are not being heard or they lack inner self-control. Afterwards they feel bad about themselves. By being understanding and patient, loving and respecting your father for all that is good about him, for all the years of support that he has given you, you can see beyond the anger problem and relate to the person underneath.
It is also good to realize that we can’t always have the relationship with our parents that we would like. Some parents are cold and stiff, others emotionally overwrought. You won’t be able to share with them everything in your life because of their limitations. Acceptance of a limited relationship is an important step to dealing with a difficult person.
There is a book that my wife read that she enjoyed on the subject ( I haven’t gotten around to it yet; to busy answering emails) called “Living With Difficult People” by Miriam Adahan. You might find that helpful as well.
Hatzlacha and remember; our parents aren’t going to be around for ever. Enjoy what you can while you have it.