September 27, 2013

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Slowing down and really listening: A lesson in love

Debra Tomaselli“As they continued their journey, he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her’ ” (Lk 10: 38-42).

School is in full swing! While in the midst of chaotic mornings and after-school dashes to soccer practices, fixing lunches and cooking dinners, volunteering in the classroom and helping with homework assignments, most parents can easily relate to Martha.

But as Martha is busy making preparations, Mary sits at the feet of our Lord and listens. When Martha complains that Mary is not busy enough, Jesus reminds her that time spent listening is the better part. In the midst of our skyrocketing commitments, this gentle reminder applies to us all.

When I was in the throes of parenting and balancing household responsibilities, I read books for support and guidance.

At a time when our preteenager was flexing her independence and my husband and I were trying to maintain control, our home became increasingly turbulent. One book in particular offered invaluable advice that restored harmony. The solution was so simple and effective that I must share it.

The book suggested listening to your child. However, it gave directions on how.

Listen attentively, it said. Make eye contact, nod your head, and repeat what is being said in the form of a question.

Listen constructively, the instruction continued. Without interrupting, without criticism, and without giving your opinion of what is being said.

The author recommended listening to your child in this manner for a minimum of 10 minutes a day, giving your undivided, respectful attention.

I implemented the author’s suggestion, devoting those moments to listening to my daughter. It wasn’t easy. Initially, I fought the urge to criticize, interrupt and get distracted by other responsibilities. The minutes dragged.

But I persevered, and eventually, effective listening became a habit. Our younger children benefitted from our improved listening skills, and mutual respect reigned in our home.

Listening—really listening—was vital advice. Put simply, I learned that our children wanted to know their opinion was validated. They needed to be heard.

Once I listened to them, they listened to me.

Someone once said listening is love. When we choose to cultivate love in our lives, we see God. Just as Jesus confirms that Mary had chosen the better part by listening to him, you too can choose the better part.

So make eye contact. Skip the criticism. Hold the opinions. Nod your head. Repeat what is being said in the form of a question.

Listen. Really listen. Make it a lifelong habit.

I promise, you’ll see the love of God manifested in a whole new way.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at

Local site Links: