In the Old Testament, the expectation that children honor their parents comes with the understanding that parents have fulfilled their responsibilities towards their children.
This was a matter of consequence because parents were the only ones who could function as provider, protector, and educator. This honoring implied all that comes with it in the context of the familial parent-child relationship, most especially attention and deference, where parents were figures of authority in almost all aspects of life.
It was a given fact that the parents were responsible for the well-being of their children, being the primary movers for the procurement of provisions for the entire family.
This family was part of a bigger or extended family that could include everyone in the community, and that the rearing up of children was a corporate responsibility of this bigger family where everyone was interconnected with each other in personal relationships. The adults in this bigger family were responsible for their collective children. There were no other agencies that may take this responsibility away from the parents, unlike today where the state may.
The parents were answerable only to God in all their responsibilities to their children. If ever the angle of the “state’s” interference can be entertained at all, the hierarchy will be negligible because the “state” itself was answerable to God since its authority was not absolute but rather sprang from God.
The Fourth [or Fifth] Commandment [that is, the commandment to honor parents] was a reiteration of the adult children’s obligations towards their parents in view of the natural course of human life that leads all parents to aging. It was an assumption that children will eventually be the ones who will take care of their parents.
This was the natural course of life for all within the context of the bigger family, which was the same with all [the] other communities.
There was no question about whether parents deserved the honoring because had the parents been irresponsible in their duties as parents, then none in the consequent generation would have survived to later become responsible parents themselves.
It was in this context that the rabbis interpreted the commandment to honor parents, that the honoring is due by virtue of parenthood, as God had commanded it, and no other requirements were needed. It was assumed that parents deserved honoring from children. If the question would be about the honorableness of parents in the way they performed their duties, then the children’s being able to survive into mature adulthood was itself proof that the parents had fulfilled their responsibilities to their children.
—an excerpt from my published dissertation: Siacor, Mona Lisa. The Significance of the Elterngebot (Iloilo City: CPU Press, 2017).
The question of how to honor narcissistic parents deserves another major research altogether (uhuh, I don’t have it in my dissertation, though I certainly do want to find out, and fast ! ). What’s more important is that one has become aware of the situation, and so start from there. . . It certainly is very tough going, to be in the middle of this. . .