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Word Wisdom: Honour

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser
Word Wisdom

The dictionary defines the verb “to honour” as “to regard with high respect or great esteem.” In the Book of Exodus the command is given, “Honour your father and your mother.” The implication is that children should consider parents as having worth and value for their lives. This is not just in connection to physical existence but for many things throughout life. Parents are to be regarded with respect and esteem by all of society because of the roles they hold.

The Hebrew word used for “honour” is kabad. It is interesting that the primary meaning of this word is “to be heavy in weight.” When used in connection to persons the word takes on the aspects of honour, distinction, glory. A parent should be heavily involved, heavily invested, and heavy in weight in the life of their child. This is for the child’s good and therefore children should honour their parents.

Psalm 50:15 God says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall kabad me.” By acts of deliverance, God is accorded honour. Parents continue this work of God throughout the stages of family life. Babies are delivered from hunger, isolation, the elements, etc. by parents. Young children are delivered from hurtful actions and mental stagnation by parents. Even teenagers and adult children experience deliverance by parents at times. Therefore parents are to be honoured, respected, and esteemed. The role of parent is next to that of God in importance.

The charge has implications for both children and parents. Parents must take the responsibility of raising and guiding the life they have brought into the world with all seriousness and joy in children’s growth and maturity. We acknowledge that no parent will be perfect in the role but that is not an excuse for children not to honour their parents. 

I have found Martin Luther’s understanding of this commandment to be insightful for our life together in community and society. He wrote, “We do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honour them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” The issue of authority is integral to the point of the commandment. God has placed parents in a position of authority in the family. And in society there are other positions of authority that flow out of God’s authority. So the interpretation of the commandment expands to police, teachers, health officials, etc.

Unfortunately the term “authority” has been demeaned recently. Many people, children and adults, do not want to allow any authority to influence thought, opinion, or behaviour. The concept of individualism has rendered personal authority as the prime, and sometimes only, influencing power in life. A society cannot exist as community if there are no authorities and honour for those in authority. A school cannot function if teachers are not honoured. Police cannot do their job “Together We Make a Difference” if they are not honoured. Parents cannot fulfill the role given to them if they are not honoured.

If kabad is viewed as a “bad” thing, authority is seen as “heavy handed” not as “heavily weighted” for the good of those they are responsible. Those in positions of authority need to analyze their kabad to keep it focused on the good, and positive growth. We all need to offer kabad to parents and other authorities, for only together can we make a difference.

Addendum: Why do Canadians spell “honour” with a “u” and Americans spell it “honor?”

After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, French became the language of government. And when French scribes heard English words, they wrote them according to French spelling, which often included the letter “u.” In 1828 Noah Webster compiled a dictionary for Americans to make many English words easier to spell and eliminated the “u”. In 1890, Sir John A Macdonald ordered the spelling used in England be used in all government documents in Canada. So, British spelling has been upheld in Canadian English ever since.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.