Talking and Time

Be Quick to Listen
By Lindsey Parker

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). A few weeks ago I was telling my three-year-old son, Andrew, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When I explained that Jesus died for the things that we have done wrong, he was distraught. After I tried to reassure him and remind him that Jesus is now alive, he said to me, “But Mommy, Jesus makes my heart sad.” This was a rather strange thing for him to say. My initial reaction, which I managed to contain, was to be quick to speak and “correct” his feelings by saying, “No, Jesus can’t make your heart sad.” But I kept listening. Eventually, after he explained his feelings with his limited, three-year-old vocabulary, I realized that he was describing his conscience, which is “sad” when he does things that are wrong. What an important emotional and spiritual milestone, which I could have very easily missed!

This incident reminded me of the importance of truly listening to children and intentionally seeking understanding. Most children are talking all the time. They speak of everyday things, of imaginary things, of happy things and hurtful things. They talk to friends and family, they talk to toys, they talk to imaginary characters and they talk to themselves. Sometimes it is just fun babble, and other times what they say is a window into their hearts.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45).

If we are willing to listen and to learn a child’s vocabulary of feelings, we will start to understand their pain, and this is a process that begins outside of the counseling context.