An Honest Journey
Does Going “No Contact” with a Parent Mean I’m Sinning?

Does Going “No Contact” with a Parent Mean I’m Sinning?

A few months back, I watched a video where Pastor Mark Driscoll discussed how to respond to toxic family members. Since we all have to deal with toxic people at times (family or not), I was interested to hear the message.

After watching the video and reading through the comments, numerous individuals shared how they made the difficult decision to set hard boundaries or go no contact with toxic parents or in-laws. However, some commenters disagreed with this idea. They claimed that having no contact with a parent was sinning and dishonoring the parent. These commenters referenced, Exodus 2:12:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

Exodus 2:12 ESV

But how does this verse specifically apply to adult children with toxic parents?

Does honoring a parent always mean staying in contact with them? What if the parent was abusive to his/her child? What if the parent is manipulative? Or carrying on in destructive habits?

I have found many people using the Exodus 2:12 verse to justify staying close to a toxic parent, don’t actually look at the full context of the Bible. They fail to compare Scripture with Scripture because there are plenty of verses where Jesus talks about leaving family for His sake (Matt. 19:29, Mark 10:29, Luke 18:29). In my own experience, I have noticed many of these individuals who make such comments do it out of fear or ignorance. Many fear losing a relationship with a parent or a child, or they can’t imagine a parent being so horrible that a child should choose to create space in that relationship.

Firstly, and importantly, there is nothing sinful about creating space in a harmful relationship. It can be extremely destructive to tell someone who has been abused by a parent (or any family member) that he or she is sinning by creating space. This type of logic drives victims of abuse back into abusive situations out of guilt or fear. The truth is, that separation is necessary. To think and heal after abuse, space must be created to allow God to work. Healing cannot happen in a destructive environment.

Secondly, no contact or setting strict boundaries with toxic parents or in-laws doesn’t mean you don’t care for them. For many people who set strict boundaries or who choose to go no contact, they first had many conversations with the parent or tried to get the parent to seek help. When a parent refuses help or continues to abuse or cross boundaries, the healthy choice for the adult child is often to limit or go no contact. This is the loving thing to do.

Stepping away allows the parent to take responsibility for his or her actions and face the consequences of continued toxic behavior. Just because one holds the title of “parent” does not mean he or she can behave in any way he or she likes. There’s hope in this separation that the parent will realize the severity of his/her behavior and get the needed help.

Most importantly, who are we called to honor before our parents?

Our Heavenly Father is to be above everything and everyone in our lives. If a parent becomes the end-all, be-all of our honor, we are not honoring God. This is true for our spouse, children, and anyone else in our lives.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:25-27 ESV

I struggled with this before stepping away from a toxic relationship with my mother. The fear of “not honoring” my mom drove me to stay in a relationship with her. But I wasn’t honoring her or God by letting her manipulate, abuse, and continue to triangulate my family. I was only validating her behavior out of fear.

I feared letting go because she was the only mom I knew.

I feared appearing ungrateful for all the things she provided in my life.

I feared others would view me as a terrible daughter.

I feared no one would believe the deep wounds my mom caused over the years because she came across as a “nice, quiet lady” to the outside world.

But mostly I feared the pain and agony that lay before me because I knew what came next.

After trying for so long to make the relationship with my mom work, the only healthy step forward was to let go. My brain needed to re-wire and re-work through what was healthy in relationships.

I fought temptation after temptation to “go back” out of fear. For months, it felt like something was missing in my life because there was no drama, arguing, gaslighting, manipulation, or mind games. It was like withdrawing from a drug. I felt like there needed to be drama in my life because it was part of my life for so long.

But God remained faithful in that grieving process. When I was in my lowest grief, the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, reminded me,

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 ESV

He brought me to a place of peace, as He slowly revealed my mother’s true colors which I failed to see, or didn’t want to see, for so long. The reality of who she was sank in hard during that initial separation and grieving time. I was beginning to see her for who she truly was and not who I wanted her to be.

For my mom to heal, I could never be her “savior” or doormat. The loving thing for me to do was and is to step away and allow my mom to face the consequences of her current and past actions.

Honoring my mom means valuing her soul and her relationship with Jesus over maintaining our relationship.

True love isn’t defined by generation after generation of family validating abuse or toxicity; it comes from seeking Jesus and allowing Him to mend the broken pieces. While we can continue praying for toxic family members out of forgiveness, that doesn’t automatically mean we maintain an unhealthy, sinful relationship. Sometimes, the healthiest thing to do is to step out and allow God to do the work. God has boundaries, and so should we.

Further Helpful Resources:

“How to Deal with Toxic Family” video with Pastor Mark Driscoll:

John Piper podcast episode, “Avoid the Unrepentant- But What If They’re Family?”:

“How to Deal with Toxic Family” blog post by Brittany Ann:

“10 Signs That Your Parent is Controlling” video with Pastor Mark Driscoll:

Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

7 thoughts on “Does Going “No Contact” with a Parent Mean I’m Sinning?

    • Author gravatar

      ²⁵ When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
      ²⁶ But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
      ²⁷ Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
      ²⁸ And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
      ²⁹ And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
      ³⁰ But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
      Matthew 19:25-30

    • Author gravatar

      This is excellent! I’m glad you are praying for your mom, while putting that separation in place that allows you to heal. I understand about others not understanding!

    • Author gravatar

      I agree with all the points you make here. Sometimes we need to separate to be truly free, and to be able to build into the lives of others. I found my own kids suffered at times because I was distracted by negative controlling behaviour in my family. It was only by separating from their influence that I was able to be the mother I owed my kids.

      • Author gravatar

        Thank you for sharing your story. Yes, it’s definitely a tough decision, and each family dynamic is different. Ultimately we each have to do what’s best for our family. ♥

    • Author gravatar

      I too have lived this nightmare Amber. I was rejected by my mother, brother,and sisters when I became a Christian. For nine long years I was an outcast, and at my mother’s viewing my brother and sisters embraced one another while I was left out. It hurts, no question. Jesus, however, said that these things would happen. Most cannot accept this, but if you have lived it, you understand it.
      Mark 10:29-30 (KJV)
      And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

      • Author gravatar

        It’s good to know we’re not alone by sharing our stories as we follow Christ. It’s definitely a nightmare, as you stated, but God is faithful. Thank you for the Bible reference, as you are exactly right, Jesus did tell us this would happen.

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