Does a mother have a favourite child? It has been said that she does: whichever child needs her the most at any one time. Mums are experts at making the world seem to stop for a child as they zone in on their needs, make their world a better place and love them unconditionally. This is all while managing a household, a job, other kids, or countless other priorities. Those who say there is no such thing as multi-tasking, only switch-tasking, clearly haven’t met many mothers in full flight. Our mums actually teach us a few important principles for better care of people we love in just about any area of life.
1. Caring for people we love understands their world rather than imposing ours.
A child’s world seems complex to him or her, just like ours does to us. Kids are not adults in miniature. They need their world to be understood with an investment of time and patience. True empathy hears their heart, feels their pain, and respects their feelings. This happens before we can then hope to truly challenge their perspectives. It also happens before we sometimes then choose not to.
People can too easily be dismissed if their world does not seem important to us. Placing ourselves in their shoes can be hard at the very times we have other things we would like to, or even need to, be doing.
Making another person’s world seem significant to us is a key to winning their heart and this is a learned art. Active listening, reflecting what we are hearing, and giving minimal prompts to draw people out are all predicated on the purposeful investment of our time with the body language to match.
2. Caring for people we love challenges them lovingly.
Parents have a disciplinary role with their children. Calm consistency is so important whereas reactionary rants do damage. So does peace-loving avoidance, which is actually not peace-making parenting. Responsibility involves shaping our kids with intent, with role-modelling, and with time. This will intrude on things we might otherwise wish to be doing, but it seizes moments of instructive calm to then shape attitudes as an extension of our love.
Naturally, we may not often be in roles where people need us (or want us) to be their teacher or disciplinarian. However, the way most mums patiently work to help their child without reacting, avoiding, or belittling, is instructive.
Speaking calmly, with questions that guide and respect, offers a friendly challenge rather than an overbearing one.
With adults, we obviously don’t exercise responsibility for them, only to them. This only gets anywhere, though, when people feel that we love them. That is not always seen, but it does need to be demonstrated.
3. Caring for people we love sacrifices for them selflessly
How many mums haven’t we seen sacrifice time, finance, personal interests and even careers, for their kids? Sacrifice reveals a heart of love. That needs to be responsible love so that kids aren’t spoilt. Selflessness for one person can’t, of course, be about selfishness for another.
Many people say that they love people, but they don’t back it up. Mothers know that acts of generosity, even in small measure, are made because they truly believe in the greater good of a child in whom they will invest themselves. A better education, for example, might see parents drive older cars or have cheaper holidays.
With other people, we similarly make sacrifices of time to invest into those who need us. Naturally, appropriate personal boundaries need us to ensure that we don’t overcommit or that people don’t take advantage of us.
People, however, need us. This is not a call to the gifted few.
Sacrifice improves our people skills, our compassion, and our desire to make the world and its people better for having us around.
Of course, my motivation is connected to my Christian faith. It certainly helps and inspires me. It also makes me more compassionate and selfless. If love is truly genuine, though, just as for a mum, it can’t be conditional on outcomes. I need to love irrespective of whether a person responds to Christ, comes to my church, returns love, or even listens to my advice or opinions.
Loving like a mother loves does not always reward us in the way we might like, but is ironically the most rewarding kind of love there is.
It is a love that keeps no record of wrongs, a love that sees the best in others … and a love that reflects to others the heart of a loving God toward us.