I am a professional…. For the past three months, my relationship with my father has been almost unbearable. I made the decision to pull away from him somewhat, because ever since childhood he has abused me verbally and physically. Now, instead of helping me grow as a person, professionally and even spiritually, he keeps criticizing me and my profession…. I am certainly grateful to my father for putting me through school, but I don’t think that gives him the right to humiliate me like he has. Every time his offensive words pop back into my mind, I get more and more resentful and I have no desire to be in touch with him. As a matter of fact, for the past three months I haven’t spoken a word to him, other than to greet him. I am not acting this way to be an ungrateful or bad son, but in order to avoid greater problems. It’s not easy to bear this situation. My conscience won’t leave me alone.

Dear Friend,

We are very sorry for the humiliation that you feel now, and for all that you suffered while growing up. We congratulate you for working hard and becoming a professional in spite of the negative messages from your father.

Many older people grew up wanting a better life for themselves and their children. Some of them, especially men, came to believe that abusive verbal and physical discipline were the necessary evils that would keep their children from making terrible mistakes. So, from the way that you have told us your story, we would guess that your father abused you in a very misguided effort to help you.

However, now you are an adult. You are grateful for your father’s investment in your education, and you want to honor him as the Ten Commandments teach.(1) But he is making it difficult because he has not been able to stop treating you like a child. Honoring him does not mean that you must subject yourself to his verbal abuse. If you still live in the home with him, you should make arrangements to move out on your own. This will make it clear that you are ready to take care of yourself.

We suggest that you purposely interact with your family, including your father, but be ready to leave the house anytime that he begins to criticize you. When it happens, don’t say anything. Just quietly get up and leave. Don’t respond when he asks you where you are going. Don’t act angry. Don’t give him the chance to begin an argument. Just leave as calmly and quietly as possible.

Then the next time you see your father, don’t talk about what happened. Don’t accuse him or respond if he starts questioning you. If you must, just leave the house again. By doing this, you are letting him know that you will not let him disrespect you. You are setting boundaries for him. It may take a few times or many times, but he will finally get the message.

We wish you well,

1 Ex 20:12