Question:I have read your answers concerning honoring parents, and I understand that one of the prongs of honoring parents is to obey them. But how far does this prong of obedience apply? I ask because I suffer from obsessive thought patterns, so I have been having many concerns lately. For example, my dad sometimes gets onto me for biting my fingernails. When he does, I stop biting out of deference. However, sometimes in private, I bite them out of nervousness. Afterwards, I feel greatly distressed because I feel that I have violated the fourth commandment. Are my fears justified, or am I taking things too far? In other words, must one avoid anything that his parents would disapprove of at all times, or simply obey out of respect when asked?
Let's start by noting that everyone is under God's authority. "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (I Corinthians 11:3). So when it is mentioned that children are to obey their parents it is with the understanding that the parents are asking for things within bounds of what God allows. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1). The phrase "in the Lord" qualifies the limits of the required obedience.
It is very common for teenagers, especially boys, to go through a phase of being obsessive regarding certain behaviors. It happens as our brains rewire themselves from childhood thought patterns to adult thought patterns. It may be hard to believe at the moment, but you will eventually grow out of it. But part of that growth is the awareness of when we becoming obsessive. When your dad is pointing out that your bitting your nails, he is helping you become aware of what you are doing. He isn't trying to embarrass you or make you feel bad. He knows that for you to succeed in life, you need to look well. An adult seen biting his fingernails would appear childish to everyone around him -- not to mention that his hands would not look that great. So your dad is reminding you that it is time to put away childish behaviors.
I would hope that you honor his request because you understand that he has your best interest in mind. It isn't always easy. It is very easy to slip back into old habits when we aren't thinking. But each time you catch yourself doing it, you ought to remember that it is for the best that you break that habit.
There are going to be times when your parents tell you to do something and you might not understand the "why" of it right then. So long as what is being asked isn't morally wrong, then you owe your parents the honor of doing as they ask. Later, when the time is more convenient you can always ask them why they ask certain things of you. Learning this will help you when you later become a parent. Though sometimes a parent might not be able to explain himself well, it doesn't require your agreement before you show your mom or dad respect by doing what they ask of you. Yet, always keep in mind that because you want to honor your parents, it doesn't mean you can turn off you mind and not be responsible for your actions.
So, rather than obsessing over every little thing, focus on doing the best you can. When you don't quite make it, pick yourself up and continue on. It is when you don't care anymore and start purposely ignoring your parents that we would need to have a long talk about your lack of honoring your parents.