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Family Matters - The Listening Kind of Love

December 29, 2015

The memory is as vivid as yesterday: I hear the sound of a child’s feet pounding down the hall. My five-year old son dashes through my door, railing against the cruel hand of fate which has dealt him some grievous blow. The subject matter has since faded. My response has not.

I act, of course, appropriately sympathetic. I gather him in my arms and ask what is wrong. My attention, however, begins to wander. I have weightier matters on my mind. So, I offer a word of fatherly advice and hope that will take care of the matter. It will not do and he raises the decibel level of his protest a few notes higher.

After several rounds of this, I hear myself inwardly saying , “What’s the matter with you, Bustard? You’re a counselor and you are supposed to know about feelings!”

So, I respond in a somewhat different way. I hug and rock him more authentically. I try to join him where he is and mirror how he feels: “Oh Micah, what an awful thing to have happen. How you must feel!” Gradually his cries taper into silence. “That’s what I needed to hear, he says, and slides off my lap to face the world again.

I love this story, even though it does not show me in the best of lights: mostly, because it reminds me how important the role of listening is in how we express our love.

Young children sometimes enjoy a time alone with a parent in a nightly ritual: sitting on the bed, lights out – “So, how did your day go?” (For some reason, if you say, “Do you want to talk about it?” the answer is likely to be no!) Young teens may speak more freely in a car on the way home, appreciating the feeling of security and confidentiality this conveys. Older teens like to be listened to when they are in the mood, of course, but if the listening turns to lecturing, they will quickly find something else to do.

We adults long for this listening kind of love as well. Sometimes a sympathetic look, a roll of the eyes or a simple “Oh my!” will do just fine. Or maybe: “What was that like for you?” Or, “You look worried – what’s up?”

In the Bible there is a description of what are called, “fruits of the spirit”. There are nine: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I notice that the very first word here is love and I know that even though there is more to loving than just listening, it is usually a pretty good place to start. Don’t you?

George I. Bustard, Jr.,
Pastoral Counselor

“Family Matters” is a community service presented by The Center for Pastoral Counseling.
For further information call CPC at 610-544-1400, ext. 308.

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