On Parental Tyranny and Blind Obedience


February 15, 2015 by Kambili M.A. Chimalu

I have two very good friends who just ended a relationship that was headed to the altar because the lady’s parents refused to give their consent to the marriage. Her parents simply forbade her from marrying the guy or continuing her relationship with him. So, at her parents’ command, they buried a relationship they had been nurturing for a while. The most painful part of it being that they had planned for 2015 to be THE year.

When I went to visit my friend and her family last weekend, I asked how she was holding up. It was obvious that she was heartbroken, but she told me that she was getting by. She was learning to live with the pain. In our conversation, I kept saying that I wouldn’t be able to make so great a sacrifice no matter who was objecting to the union, so she asked me a question:

“What will you do if your parents do not allow you to marry the person you have chosen?”

She repeated variations of this question, but even though the phrasing changed, the word “allow” was present in each incarnation of the question.

Whenever I heard the word “allow” as applied to the question, my brain rattled. The notion of whether my parents would/would not allow me, an adult, to make my major life decisions left me speechless.

I was also reminded of another conversation I had with my girlfriend who wanted to know why I would consider the option of defying my parents if they ever forbade me from marrying someone. For her, her parents saying no is the end of it.

Like I said to her, I, Kambili M.A Chimalu, am the only person that can wield a VETO in my own life. This does not mean that I will discount whatever my parents say. The thing is that I will, in good faith, consider any reservations my parents may have about any partner of mine. I promised to seriously consider any legitimate reasons they may tender as to why they are against the union. If they see that the guy is maybe emotionally abusive or controlling, they can point that out to me and I will take proper measures.

However, he is not Nigerian is not a legitimate reason. He is not Igbo is not a legitimate reason. He is not part of our denomination is not a legitimate reason. He is not from our state is not a legitimate reason. In short, any prejudice my parents may have is not a legitimate reason.

I have always believed that because I have just this one life to live, I will not live it chained by other people’s prejudices. My parents may have their biases and prejudices, but I cannot be expected to abide by them.

In one of my many conversations with my father, he told me about a friend of his who was trying to force his daughter to marry against her will. I simply said that the girl should not do what the father was asking. I suggested the girl marry the man she wanted, so my father asked me, “So, if it were you, you would disobey your father?”

I said to him, “If my father ever puts me in a position where my only option is to disobey him, I will never forgive him for that.” I made it clear that I could not and would not submit to that kind of parental tyranny.

People are always quick to point to Ephesians 6:1 –Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do— whenever the question of blindly obeying one’s parents comes up. The less often quoted verse is the verse that outlines parents’ obligation to their children: Ephesians 6:4 –Parents do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry.— A parent trying to force his/her adult child to act in a way that compromises the child’s happiness, autonomy and independence is asking for whatever the child’s reaction might be.

At a point, parents need to realize that they are supposed to take a back seat and let their children take over the reins. If a child has been raised properly, the parents should realize that the child will make the correct decisions. Even if the child makes a mistake, it is the child’s mistake to make.

How else are we supposed to prove our adulthood if we cannot be allowed (that word I hate) to make our own decisions in matters that will affect our lives for the foreseeable future. Marriage is not an easy task and it is not to be embarked on lightly. If I search and search, and then find someone who is compatible with me, my parents have absolutely no right to forbid me from marrying the person. I will be the one in the marriage, not my parents, so I cannot make my marriage decisions based on my parents’ prejudices.

I love my parents and I always endeavor to obey them, but I have never been a fan of blind obedience. Live and let live has always been my motto.

7 thoughts on “On Parental Tyranny and Blind Obedience

  1. You just took my position on the soapbox and upped the ante. I couldn’t have put it better,no need to rant anymore.
    Bless your heart!


  2. Obisco1 says:


    I watched a film aeons ago where the late Pete Eneh’s character wanted to marry Patience Ozokwor’s character and his mum vehemently refused. She didn’t really have a cogent reason so Pete went ahead and married Patience to his greatest regret. She didn’t show her ‘true colours’ until years later though and my, what colours those were!

    Moral of the story?

    Sometimes, our parents can’t articulate why they don’t want us to marry a certain person, so they use religion, sect, ethnic group even hamlet as a reason. They have a sense of doom, impending disaster, something…but they can’t put a finger on it and they don’t know why/how/what so they clutch at straws. We won’t or don’t listen because their objections don’t seem to be logical/make sense…

    Doesn’t mean they are always right though…


    • Is the movie the one where Patience was first married to Pete’s brother, but she did not bear any children for him before he died. So, Pete decided to marry her, even though some members of his clan wanted to send her packing, and she finally gave birth to a boy and a girl. She started having affairs and even turned the children against Pete. I think she later died in the movie.

      Anywhoo, I sincerely believe that parents will diplomatically tell you if their spirit does not agree with the potential somebody. The one that turns my head are the parents that make it clear, before you even bring anyone, that some people are not welcome. :O


      • Obisco1 says:

        Yes! I believe it’s the same one! Those were the days, when you watched a Nollywood movie and you went away with ‘something’.

        Back to the matter at hand, I agree that some parents place diktats on choice of partners sometimes based on past experiences…not necessarily their experience but a general experience e.g ndi Yoruba n’agwo ogwu; ndi Hausa g’egbu gi, nie gi etc…stuff that maybe happened to a relative, neighbour etc and so they generalise. Sometimes, they turn out to be right; at other times, they allow their fear(s) to cloud their judgement…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think our culture delays the “differentiation” stage of adulthood. People only learn to stand up to their parents in their 40s, 50s, etc. Maybe there is something good about the rebel who fights with their parents in the teens and 20s. By the time you’re ready to make the most important life decision (who you will marry), you’ve learned to seperate your needs and desires from your parents. It doesn’t mean that I would “defy” my parents, but at the same time I expect that they would never put me in such a position and I wouldn’t give myself that kind of headache. I’m sensible enough to know that I cannot just bring any tom dick or harry into my family as a spouse, and I get the sense that my parents could be made to agree with maybe 6 out of 10 of what I consider my top requirements in a man. Fidelity, responsibility, generosity, etc. The one thing we clash on is how Christian he has to be. I just don’t think christian faith means the same thing to my generation. I myself am so feminist, I cannot expect a man to adhere to everything the church teaches that benefit me – I am not a hypocrite. So it doesn’t make sense for me to ask for a “Man of God”. What use is a man who goes to church (and after you marry him he may stop going!) and quotes bible verses left and right if he cannot take care of my sexual, emotional and intellectual needs?


    • You are correct. Faith is not as important for me as well. My issue with the marriage thing is that my parents have a specific idea of who it should be: Nigerian, Igbo, Anambra, my small town. Now, the part of least resistance would be to at least find a Nigerian-Igbo-Anambra man, but what if I connect with an Hausa man? I know that our parents wish well for us, but they cannot protect us from everything. Some mistakes should be mine to make.


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The Author

My name is Kambili M.A Chimalu. This is a space where I share my thoughts, from the highly controversial to the mundane. I would love nothing more than to share this space with people who will motivate me to work towards a better tomorrow, so I welcome anyone that wants to share this space with me.

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