Mother: Honour And Filial Piety

8 May 2022

While I did say yes to writing a Mother’s Day article this year, I’m now hard pressed to think of what to write on. I cast about for ideas but came up blank. There wasn’t any moving inspiration either. Sigh. Square One.

I thought of writing about my mother. But then immediately I'm confronted with a problem: which one should I write about? Should it be the young devoted, loving, and caring mother who cooked, washed, and took care of me (and my four other siblings) when we were little? Or should it be the hard working housewife who ensured that we stayed healthy, got a good education, and a decent shot in life? Or should it be about the now wheelchair bound, demented, mother with a personality we hardly recognized?

Mental block. Back to square one.

In the bygone era of my youth when “quality time” and “parent-child bonding” concepts were non-existent, the parent-child relationships were simply carried out perfunctorily and politely. (Anyway that was how I felt.) Influenced by the central Confucian pillar of filial piety, some level of innate phileo love, however, did naturally exist in the family. Implanted - directly or indirectly - in my young mind is the idea that the measure of my moral worth is tied to the way I treat my elders.

Today, many decades past my formative years, I subscribe to the governing principle of “honour your father and mother”, because God Himself commands this. He also laments, “A son honours his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” (Malachi 1:6)

The Talmud (a large collection of Jewish writings) posits that honouring human parents is equivalent to honouring God. It says that since there are three partners in the creation of a person (God and two parents), honour shown to parents is the same as honour shown to God.

In the gospels, Jesus affirms the importance of honouring one's father and mother. Paul quotes the commandment in his letter to the church in Ephesus. And according to the gospel of Matthew, the obligation to honour one's parents is bounded by one's obligation to God.

Hence, I commend “honour your father and mother” to all with living parents.