Do you yearn for one or both of your parents to give you some approval? If so, is the problem with them or with you? Have you poisoned the relationship, or are your parents hard to please? Or is there fault on both sides? Do you as a parent give your child approval when they deserve it, or do you express disapproval no matter what they do?
Ephesians 6 contains some guidelines for the parent-child relationship, but before we look at that, let’s look at a Biblical example of someone who sought for some approval from his father. Esau was the favored son of his father, but he did something that displeased his father.
Gen. 25:28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Gen. 26:34-35 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
The word “grief” is pretty strong and indicates that this problem was an ongoing problem. (Be aware that the Hittites were descendants of Heth. Heth was a son of Canaan. This means that Esau’s wives were Canaanites.)
Gen. 10:15 ¶ Canaan became the father of Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth …
Because of the grief that Rebekah experienced from Esau’s wives, she was determined that Jacob would find a wife elsewhere.
Gen. 27:46 ¶ Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
Gen. 28:1 ¶ So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.
Gen. 28:2 “Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.
Gen. 28:3 “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.
Gen. 28:4 “May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.”
Gen. 28:5 Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.
Now notice what Esau learned from this.
Gen. 28:6 ¶ Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take to himself a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he charged him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,”
Gen. 28:7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Paddan-aram.
Gen. 28:8 So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac;
Gen. 28:9 and Esau went to Ishmael, and married, besides the wives that he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
Esau was the favored son of his father, but he realized that his father was not pleased with his wives, so he married an Ishmaelite, a descendant of Abraham. This indicates that deep down Esau wanted approval from his father. The text indicates that Esau’s wives were the source of the grief, so in his case, Esau had no one to blame but himself.
How do we avoid situations where a child yearns for approval from a parent? Ephesians gives us some guidelines about our parent-child relationships. Notice that the guidelines are not specific; rather, they focus on general concepts.
Eph. 6:2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise),
Eph. 6:3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.
Eph. 6:4 ¶ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Again, these instructions are not specific. There are multiple ways to honor parents and there are multiple ways to provoke your children. The emphasis is on the general concepts and it is up to us to figure out how to achieve those concepts in our relationships.
As far as yearning for approval, if both parent and child are working to obey these commands, then the child should not have a need to yearn for approval. If you as a child are seeking to honor your parents, then you will give your parents reason to give you approval. If you as a parent are careful not to provoke your children to anger, then you will give your child credit and approval when they deserve it. Since these commands are not specific, it may be difficult to figure out how to obey these commands in our relationships, but we need to put forth the effort in order to avoid situations where a child is yearning for some approval from parents.
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