A few months ago, I moved to another country to live with my father. I am twenty-two years old, and my parents divorced twenty years ago….

My father is now with another woman, but he continues to loathe my mother. Ever since I moved in with him… he has become very violent. He hasn’t actually hit me, because my stepmother has intervened; but he has said that, if he wants to, just like he brought me into the world he can take me out….

He tells me that I am a manipulator and a liar like my mother, and those words are really affecting me because I no longer even know who I am.

I know that I’m supposed to honor my father, but the only thing that I want is to go back home… because I’m afraid of him.

Dear Friend,

Your story is heart-breaking, and we are so sorry for all that you have suffered! However, we have good news for you! You should do exactly what you say you want to do and go back home. We highly recommend that you do so immediately, getting away from your abusive father as soon as possible.

It would be wise for you to make the plans for your trip, but then wait to tell your father until it is time for you to go. Otherwise, he is likely to become more violent with you in the meantime. If you think your stepmother can be trusted, you could ask her to help you make the arrangements in secret.

You are confused about the meaning of honor. Yes, the Ten Commandments say that we should honor our parents, (1) but honor never means that we should placidly subject ourselves to emotional and physical abuse. In your desire to do the right thing, you have put yourself in grave danger.

The greatest commandment in the Bible, according to Jesus Christ, is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. But Christ followed that up with saying that the second most important is to love our neighbors as ourselves. (2) If I am to love my neighbor as myself, does that mean that I should let my neighbor come and steal all the food from my family’s dinner table every night? Of course not! It is my neighbor’s responsibility to provide for his own family and to refrain from stealing my food. Love does not demand that I allow evil to be done to me.

In the same way, honoring your father does not demand that you let him abuse you. We recommend that you read Case 518 to more fully consider what honor means during the different stages of life.

Neither loving nor honoring require that we let evil into our lives. It is not your father’s right to take you out of this world, and you certainly should not remain in any place where you are in danger of that happening.

We wish you well,

1 Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16; Mt 15:4; 19:19; Lk 18:20; Eph 6:2
2 Lev 19:18; Mt 22:35-39