Updated: May 18, 2020
My daughter, Ava, is a sensitive soul with a lot of emotions. She gets this from me so you would think that I would be very understanding and compassionate when she expresses those emotions. Instead, I often feel very frustrated when she begins to cry and continues on for much longer than I think is necessary. I find myself repeating things like “just calm down” and “it’s not that big of a deal” as my patience dwindles. As much as I wish those phrases were the key to washing away all her tears and helping her to move on, they never really end up being very helpful.
I’ve been feeling really convicted about how I respond to Ava’s tears recently. It is my desire to respond to Ava with patience and grace because I love her, and I want her to feel that from me. So why do I respond in the way that I do? I’ve pinpointed a few different reasons.
Sometimes I just don’t understand why she is so upset. From my frame of reference, the things that bother her really don’t seem like a big deal to me. Part of the reason for that is that we have had a different set of experiences in our lives that inform the way we feel about and respond to situations. But no matter how I see it, it is a big deal to her.
Other times, it’s honestly just really inconvenient. We might be trying to get out the door to go somewhere or I need to help her brother with something or I’m trying to cook dinner, and I don’t feel like I have the time to sit and talk and comfort her for 10 minutes. It would be much more convenient for me in those moments if she would settle herself down and move onto something else.
And then there are those times when the thing that Ava is upset about is something that I have done. Maybe I’ve snapped at her out of frustration or I’ve neglected to play with her because I wanted to get something done, and she is expressing that I have hurt her in some way. In those moments my gut reaction might be to defend myself. I want to prove that I have done nothing wrong, that I am justified, and that she is simply overreacting.
No matter the reason, when I fail to listen to Ava and instead try to minimize her concerns, I am sending her the message that I don’t care and that her feelings are not valid. I’m failing to provide a safe and secure environment where her voice can be heard and she feels valued and understood.
I’m reminded of James 1:19 which says, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
This is the loving response that I should (and want to) have when Ava is crying. This is the loving response that would help Ava to thrive.
Right now in our country and around the world, many people are crying out. They are crying out against injustice. They are claiming that wrong has been done against them. They are calling for change.
Are you listening?
Or are you responding with “just calm down” or “it’s not that big of a deal”?
Or are you simply ignoring the cries?
It might be hard to understand the cries when it doesn’t match up with your experience. It might be inconvenient to take the time to try to understand when it doesn’t impact you directly. It might even be hard to hear because you feel like it is an indictment against you and you don’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong.
But can you take the time to listen? Just listen.
If you don’t understand, ask questions (genuine questions, not the ones that sound like an accusation). Listen to people’s stories. Read books and articles. Listen to podcasts. Watch documentaries. Place yourself in the role of a learner, rather than trying to prescribe the solutions.
If you feel like it’s not convenient, can you imagine yourself or someone you care deeply about in the same situation, crying out for help with either no response or one that sounds like “just get over it”? What would that do to you? Remember that we have a Savior who gave up everything to rescue us. We are also called to lay down our lives for the sake of others.
If you feel angry or defensive, don’t respond by heaping your anger onto someone else or trying to justify why you are without blame. Instead pause and take some time to reflect on why those feelings are being stirred up.
It is important to remember that there a is a person on the other side of every issue – a person who was created in God’s image and who is deeply loved by God just as you are. Your response can either uphold the dignity God has instilled in that person or tear it down.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. – James 1:19