Sunday Word: Calling parents by their first names

Western cultures tend to put little importance to any barriers relating to how you address your parents or others older than you.

In most African cultures it is almost unthinkable that a child can call a parent by the first name. It is tantamount to a taboo.

The only exception is when trying to explain to others your biological link to the parent as far as family trees are concerned.

You also can’t do that to your uncles and aunts or anyone else who is above your generation. It is however okay to call those within your generation of siblings, relatives and associates by their first names.

In our traditions there are times when even those of an older generation are supposed to give respect or bow down to people of a younger generation, through all kinds of twisted relationships that may require such an honour.

They cannot also address these younger people without using a particular referenced cultural designation denoting their kind of family relationship or other.

Western cultures tend to put little importance to any barriers relating to how you address your parents or others older than you.

There is generally a free first-name calling across the divide.

Children thus can address their fathers and mothers by their first names. That also includes the uncles and aunts etc. This kind of culture is what we are now subjected to through our televisions or other media channels. What I find disheartening is that TV soaps, movies and others of African background and acted by indigenous casts are imitating the western kind of culture on our screens, also calling their fathers and mothers by their first names. Such a liberation I find hard to swallow, as I was raised under our strict customs of respect. I still don’t have the liberisation to address my father of mother by their first names.

I grew up in a society where children would bow down just to greet a parent, especially the father.

Girls would kneel down to show honour and respect to all father figures. The authority of a parent was beyond reproach. Their words were like our command, military-style.

There is now an alarming shift to align with the western culture in the name of “modernisation”. This also includes instances where children can now openly challenge or defy parents’ directives. In what now seems to be a reversal of roles, our children expect us parents to greet them first in acknowledgement to their presence around us. We are now like equals.

God created Adam and Eve, male and female, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and every moving thing that moves upon the earth”.

Thus Adam and Eve became father and mother upon the earth, with God-given authority over everything that moves upon our planet, including their offsprings (Genesis 1:27-28).

When He instituted the first ten commandments, the first four had to do with mankind’s relationship with Him, the Creator.

The other six had had to do with inter-human relationships. Heading that list of six is the commandment that relates to the honour and respect for our parents.

As per the second book of Moses, Exodus 20:12 reads; “Honour your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your god gives you”. He gave a reward in recognition for their respect and honour; Long life.

This fifth commandment spells out clearly that we should honour our fathers and mothers but does not give specific boundaries about it.

One of the questions that can be raised is whether that honour is only restricted to when they are alive and if that should be extended to include even after their death. Certainly even after their death we cherish them.

Just as much as we love and fear the Lord our God, we should likewise love and respect our parents.

Our love is based on admiration, affection and delight. Fear of the Creator is based on sin, in the same manner as Adam and Eve hid from the Father in fear after they had disobeyed the instruction against eating of the forbidden fruit, and the prescribed consequences for disobedience, i.e. death.

Lack of respect for our parents brings forth a shortening of life, as a reversal of the reward of long life for their honour.

I subscribe to the notion that there is some kind of life even after death.

I, therefore, think that we should continue to have some form of remembrance to honour and celebrate the life we shared with our parents even after their death.

However, what happens to their souls thereafter is only known to the Lord our God who is in charge of both the Heavens and the Earth. However, on no account should parents be symbols for worship after their death. Worship is only reserved for the Lord, our Creator.

There is also a general rule enacted by the Lord our God in honour of all our elders, regardless of parentage. In Leviticus 19:12, He spoke to the people, via Moses, saying “You shall rise up before the hoary head (aged grey-haired people), and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord (signature of God).

All old people should be viewed as senior citizens in any of our communities. They would have acquired a lot of wisdom through their longer experiences of life and are of high value to society. We should always consult them before making any important decisions pertaining to the lifelihood of our societies. They are our torch bearers. Amen.

  • *Prosper Tingini is the Scribe of the Children of God Missionary Assembly - God’s messengers. Contact details: Mobile & Whatsapp – 0771 260 195. Email address: [email protected]

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