The Greatest of These is Love - Becoming Love

The Greatest of These is Love—Becoming Love

For single parents, the word love, or the concept of love, can bring with it conflicting beliefs. We have all felt love, a kind of love that we were so sure of that we committed our lives to another person who we loved completely. And when those hopes got dashed, it can leave us with a misinformed sense of love or even a fear of love.

As we look back on our lives, we have seen our share of poor examples of what love is. Love within normal human limits can look more like codependency or people-pleasing, self-serving, and maybe sometimes just not true. But God puts a serious premium on love being above all things on earth.

Today we’re discussing what real love looks like and how we can be better at it. Our roundtable discussion includes podcast host Robert and solo parent participants Elizabeth, Amber, and Marissa.

How has your view of love changed since you became a single parent?

Marissa: My view of love has definitely changed. It’s gotten harder; there was this fairytale that you get married and you have kids, and you live happily ever after. That's the easy part of it. But I will tell you my first husband and I went through some incredibly difficult times in our marriage. It was not easy staying married to him. And we were separated when he passed away. I still love him, and now I don't have the opportunity to daily show it. That's been very hard for me. To have a love that lives in my heart and it goes nowhere. Realizing it's not temporary, it doesn't fade just because somebody's no longer there. That's probably been one of the biggest changes.

Elizabeth: I based my view of love on what my husband was providing for me when I was married and the way he loved me, which actually was not healthy at all and I based it on the way I was loved, as a child. I based it on the way I was shown love by my abuser—lots of earthly ways to see love, very human ways to see love and experience love. Since becoming a single parent, being more intentional in understanding God's love, sitting in God's love, and experiencing it, even when sometimes my human understanding of it would get in the way. God has changed my view of what love is and also my son has changed my view of what love is.

Amber: Since becoming a single parent, I have experienced the redemptive qualities of love that we mentioned and how there's so much love. Love is so much more powerful than I ever even knew. I've known God for so long, His love, et cetera. But it gets misguided, it gets confused by human messages and experiences. But I think about how God met me in my pain, and it was easy to feel love in the good moments. When He met me in my pain or in my mistakes, that was a different kind of love, that utter base-level humility of my need for God is desperate. And for His love to be present in those moments became really clear to me when I was alone as a single parent and maybe had just made a rotten mistake with my kids. And just God being present with me, in it—the redemptive quality.

Robert: The thing that changed for me is that I always viewed love as attached to some kind of performance, whether I looked outward at people and said, I really love this person because this is what they do for me. Or God really loves me because I do this, this, and this. When I became a single parent and I felt “I got nothing.” I felt like I failed a marriage. I felt like I'm barely holding on as a parent. Those were the times in that brokenness in that valley that I felt more loved than I'd ever felt in my life by God and that started reorienting the way I look at love. It's not based on performance.

What is love? I don't want to be trite. We could finish this conversation by saying God is love. And that's true and accurate. But as we dig a little bit deeper, I will say it was during my solo season that I started uncovering what I believe love really is—both God's love externally and internally. It's really important to grapple with what is real love.

Is love a feeling?

Elizabeth: I don't know that love is a feeling, but I feel like it has a lot of feelings attached to it. Even if you aren't feeling it, I feel like it's still a feeling. I'm thinking about it in my human form because I think about the times when I felt overwhelming love for my child, for instance. You can feel it, you can feel it in the deepest parts of yourself. And then I remember times later in my marriage when things were falling apart and I felt nothing for this person. But even that's a feeling of apathy.

Amber: I think we identify it as a feeling—infatuation, sparks. It feels good to be with someone with that kind of love. I was really taught that love is a decision. Ever since I was small, it was a decision to really care for and give to another person. And oftentimes sacrificially whether we felt like it or not. And I was raised that way. And so for me, that's almost ingrained in how I view love, and certainly, that's been expanded in so many ways and nuances, but ultimately I think love is a choice. We choose to act loving toward ourselves, and toward other people. God made a choice to love us in His decision to save us from ourselves. And so for me, it feels like a decision and a choice. And that's not a very feel-good answer, but it feels really real to me. And it feels really constant and steady.

Marissa: I'm looking Scripturally in the ten commandments and He commands us to love Him. That's the verb form of loving. He also says that God is love, which that's a noun form of loving. Neither of those is a feeling. They're either, “being and is,” or an action, an act, and a commandment to follow through with. There are some feelings that we feel that in our culture we say they're our love and it feels really good. Those feelings are amazing. When I look at my kids and I think, I'm so happy you're in my space right now. That feeling is amazing. But bigger than that feeling are both the noun and the verb forms that we find in Scripture.

Robert: I agree with everything you're saying because I do think that we can be aware of a feeling that is maybe, a symptom of a choice. The question as it relates to God says, “The greatest of these is love.” This a direct quote from the Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13. Relative to comparing all the other gifts. We'll get to this later in the conversation.

We can get very disillusioned with what love is because we have heard the lines and the inconsistencies of human love. How do we become love moving from this wounded state by what we perceive, what love is, and what we perceive love to have brought us? How do we become love to those that may continue to hurt us or that are less than like our favorite people on earth?

If the greatest of these is love, how do we become love?

Elizabeth: Reflecting on what Amber said about the sacrificial and the choice, the decision, I'm not sure this is going to answer the question, but how often do we, in our humanity and our human love, think “How is this person serving me?” Or “What are they bringing to my life?” Or “How much value are they bringing to my life?” If we're thinking about romantic love or even friendship. And then flipping that, “How can I serve this person well? How can I do those things?”  And so with that being the case, I would guess in order to give that sort of love, you have to have received it. You have to give from a full cup. And so the only way we can become love is if we receive love.

And are we able to receive love? Which I know for me has been so hard. I do not receive love very easily, very well. I don't believe it at times or there have been times in my life when I don't trust it. I don't trust the love that's being given even from God. I didn’t feel it.

Robert: Why do you think that is? Is that because you feel like there's an expectation attached to it?

Elizabeth: It's because of my hurt, especially when it came to the trauma that I've experienced. I have asked, “Where were you, God? Where were you in that moment when I was being sexually abused as an eight-year-old child over and over and had no one to go to? Where were you and how can You love me?” I don't want anything to do with your quote-unquote love. That wasn't love and I was a child. And so really having to dig into that hurt and pain, wrestle with that, wrestle with how God still loved me in those moments and, and sit with that and accept that and receive it. And it's been a lot of work.

Robert: It is a lot of work. I totally agree with you.

So if we go off the premise of, we can't give what we don't have, how do we experience God's love?

Marissa: I like comfort and I want God to show up with gifts and ease. And I want Him to say, “I'm showing you I love you because you don't have to endure hard things.” Yet God doesn't show His love for us by what He gives us or by what He makes us face. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That's it. Period. It is that Christ died for me. There are circumstances in our lives that are going to be painful and hard and why God provides those, allows those, and why God can't just make all of us super wealthy superstars, whatever it is we think fits our comfort level. I cannot give you the answer. But I do know that not getting that for me, I have to keep pulling myself back. But God showed us His love and it was when He sent His Son and that is enough. Because if it wasn't enough, He would be doing something different.

Robert: That's so accurate. I was at a church meeting last night and we were talking about the power of the cross and what it means. The significance of the cross is the forgiveness of sins but it is also the complete and unadulterated manifestation of what true love really is and true love really is complete sacrifice. I heard someone talking about the things leading up to the cross or the crucifixion, the passion, that it represented everything that we are. Judas betrays Jesus, that's hurt. The people that have seen Him do miracles that turn against Him. Then His own people, the Jews turn against him.

He's beaten and bruised and everyone abandons Him. Take all of our wounds, all of our drama, all of our trauma, all of our stories, and none of us can say that we had all those happen at the same time, but Jesus did. All of it at the same time. And yet He went to the cross and He never answered back. He never came back with an equal opposing viewpoint. He took it, He took it all. In fact, where we got to in this conversation last night was His retaliation was forgiveness, which is so profound to me.

True love is taking all the sin, all the things that we represent, the betrayal, the ways we've fallen short and Jesus' answer to us is nothing but, “Father forgive them because they don't know what they're doing.” There's nothing like this example.

How do we come to know this true love? Are there things that we can do to understand the gravity of it?

Robert: I can understand it intellectually. I can understand it and think it's pretty great.

Amber: I'm just circling back around and my parents, they absolutely needed redemption and God's forgiveness. They caused trauma to my older siblings. They caused a lot of devastation and pain through their human choices. And when they became sober and became believers and received God's love for themselves, that gift of redemption and forgiveness that they so desperately needed became so filled up, that's when they were then able to do that for my older siblings and then even for me growing up. So how did my siblings begin to experience love from my parents? It was through my parents' repair and their giving to them and their consistency and their demonstration of it. And it was a reciprocal thing that as my parents were demonstrating my siblings had a choice to receive it or not, and I only knew the better times.

The evidence of that transformation became a physical, visible relational representation for me of the transformation that love can bring. There were stories of my parents before that I wouldn't have even recognized when I heard the stories. So the transformative power of love is when we act out in the flesh after having received that ourselves. And I mean, by God's grace, what a gift that I got to see this in my own family—the before and after effect of the power of love.

Robert: I think we get confused about what love is and we can turn it into something that we control, but there's an existence of love that precedes all of us. And it's an eternal factor. I think we're saying the same thing here, that we can't really love others until we come to an understanding of what love is. And I'll say the interesting thing about your story, Amber, and even the story of Jesus going to the cross and what you're talking about Elizabeth with trauma, the thing that's unique about all those is the understanding that true love is born out of failure. Devastation, it seems to me the understanding that love comes from a position of lack, desperation, and weakness. Brokenness. That's why I often say I think the solo season is the perfect opportunity to actually understand God completely. If we embrace our brokenness, if we embrace our story, if we embrace the trauma, then we can start understanding God's love for us and the forgiveness for us in spite of ourselves, in spite of the things that have been done against us. It gives us the freedom to love other people.

Elizabeth: The humanity, like the humility and the humanity of it is, is what's been a huge turning point for me—embracing my humanity. And the humility of my story. All of those things. For so long, I spent so much time in toxic shame and just beating myself up over things I had no control over. I can say that now, but back then I thought it was all my fault. Everything was my fault. And now having walked through some of the healing that I have, I can really embrace the humanity and the humility of it all. In that brokenness and in that breaking down of not taking on as much as I had for my entire life, I was almost taking on God-sized problems as a human. Whether that was because of pride or because of the hurt and the toxic shame, put any sort of label on it that you want.

But at the end of the day, it wasn't until I reached that humility and humanity part of it that I understood. And I'll tell this story. I was learning about Luke 15 and the prodigal son and picturing God as the good father in that story. And then we're the older son and the younger son. And I equate myself to the younger son as if we're putting ourselves as characters, which I did at one point in a weekend retreat. And so I put myself in the shoes of the younger son.

And I'm this person who has gone out in all my humility and humanity. Humanity, like in my embarrassment and my shame and all my things. And I've escaped. I'm out living with the pigs. The father comes out and if you don't know what Hebrew culture was like back then when someone leaves the community, they're as good as dead. That's it. Kristi McLelland, who we've had on the podcast before, talks about this. She gives the background of the cultural standard back then. So when someone leaves and disowns their family, they're as good as dead. And as a matter of fact, if they come back to the community, everyone in the community has a right to kill them and go after them.

And so there's the picture, the scene of the good father seeing the son coming towards him. And the way Kristi puts it is we all picture this father and son coming towards each other on an empty dirt road. But she said that likely there were people lining the streets and seeing this person and maybe even turning towards the son to go after him, to stop him from coming back into the community because he wasn't welcome. And the good father lifts up his robe and starts running. Another piece of this is men don't run in the culture and men certainly don't lift up their robes to run. And when I heard that, I felt God laid this on my heart because it wasn't anything Kristi said in the lesson, but when I thought about how the good father lifted his robe and ran and how he took all of those people’s eyes off of the son and put it on him, he took all the shame that was part of that culture.

He took everything, the eyes were on him, and the son became non-existent. He runs up, hugs him, kisses him, and tells him to bring a robe and the rings. Hearing that story, and experiencing that for myself—some things were happening around that same time in my own life where I feel like God did exactly that for me. He took the view—everybody's vision off of me and put it on Him, put it on something else, I could see it. I could feel it. And that's what I mean, that broke me. I was amazed. That's when I experienced it for real, like on a deep level. And if anybody's ever had that moment when your humanity and your humility are broken down to the ground and God is taking everything off of you and putting it on Himself—it's such a true feeling of love and it has nothing to do with us—it has to do with His pursuit, Him running to us.

Marissa: When you hear stories like this and you really see God show up and it helps me understand too, why then I feel so disappointed when others don't. When I expect the love that I get from a spouse, a child, or somebody at church to feel like the love of God and then it doesn't, that wounds me. And I've spent strangely a lot of time lately thinking about those wounds that come when somebody doesn't love me the way I want to be loved. And flipping that back on its head and saying, but where am I showing up inadequately like that to somebody else? If I'm expecting this perfect love from them, am I giving them perfect love? And the answer is no because I can't. I can't see what they need. I can't be who they need me to be. I have finite hours in my day. I have a longing for it because I was created to long for God.

But if I can never quite get it from somebody else, what am I doing in my life to pursue being able to offer it to other people? How many times am I willing to forgive? How many times am I willing to step in? And I think there have been times when I don't feel loved by God. I know God that You sent Your Son and that sounds amazing. But right now I just feel unloved. And it would go a long way if I felt loved. And in those moments when I have been able to come out of myself and said, it's not about feeling go, show love, even if you don't feel it. Go be love to somebody else because there is somebody else out there who needs it. Just unadulterated love, just love me for no reason other than because I exist.

Not because I can give you something. Not because I'm smarter than somebody else. Not because I'm better than them. I just need to be loved right now. And in those times I have prayed, I'll tell you on one of the anniversaries of their dad's death, the boys and I prayed, “Give us people to love today.” Because we were so hurting and God did. He brought people into our lives to show love too. At the end of that day, we felt more loved than we had in a long time. And it wasn't because somebody did something for us. No. It's because we went out and tried to serve others in a loving way that day.

Robert: Wow, that's huge Marissa. I think that so much about what I'm hearing here is that love is more than a feeling. It's more of a posture of humility, realizing that we don't measure up and God loves us. And so when we look at other people, when we look outward, we have to adopt a posture of humility that we are no greater. No less than other people around us. Love is more about a posture of humility and then action, sacrificing and giving generously, and serving other people. That's what I think love is as exhibited by Christ. He came, He could have called down the heavens on the people that were persecuting Him but He didn't, He took it and He was humble. He humbled Himself, became a human, and was crucified by His creation. That's true humility. And instead, He gave, and He offered out of generosity, not from His own perspective but from what He was shown. And that has to do with His posture of humility.

Elizabeth: And what a gift for us to have that as an example too. It’s such an integral part of the story. How would we know otherwise?

Robert: Someone said it in one of our conversations. Remind me who said we were talking about this and how 1 Corinthians says, “...but the greatest of these of is love.” But that faith and hope are mainly things for ourselves. And they're temporary. Beloved is for eternal is for others. And eternal. What was that?

Elizabeth: I said it. I heard it in a sermon. Curtis Zackary, who we've had on the podcast here. He preached on it one Sunday at church and talked about faith, hope, and love. And man, it stuck with me. This was probably three or four years ago, I heard this sermon and, it sticks with me. Faith and hope are both earthly things. They end at our death. We don't have hope anymore. We don't have to have faith anymore because we're on the other side but love endures. Love crosses both. It’s here and it’s eternal.

It's on the other side as well. Because when we get there, that's when we finally experience what we've been longing for. What we've been striving for is Eden, which is, before the fall. We're all trying to get back to Eden. We're all trying to get back to where we experience eternal love. And because of our fallenness and our humanity, we can't experience it to the fullest. We know it's there, we have it here, we have glimpses of it here, and we can experience it in God's love for us as much as humanly possible but so much distracts us from that too. But eternal love, that's what we're getting to on the other side.

Robert: And that eternal love is unmerited. It's not because of something that we've done. It's a free gift that's given to us, which we are called to give to others. But until we've experienced that and, and really absorbed that, it's really difficult to do. So as we ask ourselves, “How do we become love moving forward?” there is a litmus test in the Bible, which is 1 Corinthians 13.

Amber: It’s so beautifully stated in The Message version of the Bible. Paul says, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love, love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self-love. Doesn't want what it doesn't have, love doesn't strut doesn't have a swelled head. Doesn't force itself on others. It isn't always me first. Doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others. Doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, and puts up with anything. Trusts God always, and always looks for the best. Never looks back, but keeps going to the end.

Robert:  What's remarkable about that is that it's written by Paul who for context, and we all know this, was a first-century Christian's most feared enemy, number one. It's ironic and poetic and beautiful. Probably the most profound passage in Scripture about what we’re supposed to do came from one of the most feared people—Paul who killed Christians. Who, and what God did in his life transformed his way to, now he writes this, which is an amazing passage telling us this is what love looks like as we move forward. But one of the most important things to remember here is everything that's talked about, we are not capable of doing it on our own.

This is not something that we can conjure up and we can give some temporary, attaboys and good job or whatever. If we're honest we care more for ourselves than others. We want what we don't have. All of these things we're guilty of.

Elizabeth: Together. We are selfish human beings.

And so in becoming love, and if this is the litmus test, how do we get there? How do we, how do we become love?

Robert: I don't know. This is something that it's so beyond our capability of doing, but I have seen this and it’s not to toot my own horn. I have seen myself love people that I thought I could never love because of God's love for me. ,

It's so outside my power. But I have realized that not only when I have experienced God's love and have a posture of humility and am willing to move into action and sacrifice, but God fills us with love for other people. We try to do this on ourselves but inevitably our codependency works in there, a self-serving; perversion of what true love is. My ex-wife really hurt me. There are significant things, but I can honestly tell you that I look at her differently now. I look at her out of compassion and love and I feel a tremendous amount of love for her.

Marissa, when you said earlier that you still love Bill. That's remarkable. He hurt you. The same thing from my ex. I went through the wringer, but I'm called to become love and it didn't start with a feeling. But I will tell you that a feeling has come from the action of showing up and being willing to exhibit and manifest God's love to her. The feeling has followed that.

Elizabeth: Do you think that that has only come from what we said earlier, the humility part of it and accepting your humanity? Because I'm even thinking about 1 Corinthians and going through all of that I have, I have 1 Corinthians on a big wooden poster-size thing in my room, and I look at it every day. And there are times when I'll sit and read it and say, “Is this what I'm doing? Did I measure up?” and not from a place of beating myself up if I didn't, because I know I can't. And that's okay. But what are the ways that I have shown love today according to 1 Corinthians 13? It's almost like accepting that humanity in myself of understanding, I can never give that as a whole. That is God's job to give that as a whole in completion. I can't do that in my humanity. Is that how you're able to show love then?

I’m thinking about the healing journey of the hurts and all the things that our exes and different people, our parents, whoever can bring us and can lay on us and all the weightiness and heaviness of the world, it's really easy when you're not looking at your own life and looking at your own mistakes, looking at your own humanity and in a place of humility and humble nature. Like before God and saying, I am nothing. I have nothing.

Getting to that point of I’ve got nothing. And it's in that then you're able to open your eyes to the humanity of other people and say, they're just like me. I can't set them to a higher standard or at higher expectations than you. And that's where that love comes in.

Robert: What kills love for me and probably for all of us is entitlement, the antithesis of love. And all of us, especially if you've been through any kind of wounds, we feel I've had to go through this and that really sucked. And so I deserve to be angry and pissed off and blah, blah, blah. I deserve, I am entitled to X. I don't think love can exist with entitlement. I don't think it's possible.

Amber: Well, it is certainly an obstacle. It stops the flow of love. I think about how humility changed my position from the older brother who was entitled and had been doing all the right things. And the dad who has been here the whole time serving and doing all the things he’s supposed to. When I went from that entitled position to recognizing I was branding my ex as the one who'd run off and done all the terrible things. And maybe when he came back, I might've wanted to stone him like the rest of the village. And when all of a sudden I thought, “Wait a second I'm that son. I'm the one who went off. I need my father to run to me just as much as everybody else.” When that posture flipped for me, that's when I was able to start forgiving the hurts. Letting go of the bitterness and remembering the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

Robert: How have you seen that manifest? What's the power that's come out of that perspective?

Amber: It's loving my ex better, better than when we were married instead of looking with a critical eye. Being able to say, he's human too, and just like me, he needs forgiveness. Just like him, I need forgiveness and we all come to this world in our humanity. We don't have anything else to offer. And God met our most massive need in His love for us by giving us His Son. Our most massive need was met with the most massive gift. In Jesus. I need that as much as my ex, the older brother needed it as much as the younger brother. And when I flip that in my head, that's when it's like, whoa, Lord, I need to be the recipient of you running to me. And from that place of wealth where You then clothe me and You take care of me and You throw a party for me. You get to be part of this party too because I want you to be safe and rescued too.

Robert: When you can have that posture of humility it allows you to see things from a different perspective. Marissa, I want to ask you about this. You told us a story once about being at a grocery store, with your kids. I love this story because it says so much love is more than a feeling, it's an act of obedience. Why? Talk, talk about that.

Marissa: I make my boys go grocery shopping with me pretty much every week and one day we were all waiting in the checkout line, and there was a woman with two young kids that I had seen from the produce aisle all the way through. I just kept running into her and she looked frazzled. She looked like the kids were wearing her down. And she looked like today was just not her day. And she was in the checkout line next to me. I watched her pull up and I watched those kids and I just thought, I've been there before. And the thought came into my mind maybe I should pay for her groceries. And I thought, well, but there's not a really good way to do that. Like, she's in, in front of me. And so then I'd have to go be really weird.

So I thought to myself, if I was in front of her then I would've done it right then. I was making excuses. I smiled at her and she turned around and said, “We have a lot more than you, would you like to go ahead of us?” And I thought, okay, God, you are telling me something here because she's got little ones. I have teenage boys who can stand in line. They probably need some time standing in line. And I was like, no, no, no. You need to, you need to get those little ones out. But I ended up walking over to get a gift card and then walking back, and my kids asked “What are you doing, mom?” They had no idea.

I bought the gift card. I ended up in the line over, which had opened up and she was still checking out so I bought the gift card and I walked back over to her and I said, I don't know your situation, but I've been a single mom before and I know that there are some days we just need somebody to show us a little bit of love. And so here's a gift card for some groceries. And she just grinned at me. And she said I'm not a single mom, but my husband is an alcoholic and so sometimes I feel like one, and for about five seconds I felt great. I'd acted on obedience and I'd shown love to this woman. And then the fear and the doubt started to creep in.
And I thought, well, did the money that I just gave her, give him more money to go buy alcohol?

And was it was going to be elevating all of his alcoholism? The thoughts and anxiety in my head started spinning out of control. And ultimately I just had to say, no, God commands us to love. He doesn't command us to love if we know how it's going to turn out. He doesn't command us to love because we know that those people are deserving. No, He says love, period. And so at that moment, I needed that grace to just know what I was doing was in obedience, serving God and saying, “I'm going to show love to somebody today. And that is enough. And that is okay.”

Robert: That's a beautiful story. I'm glad that you told it, Marissa because I totally agree. It's not our job to measure the outcome of showing love at all. We are to manifest love out of obedience. God needs to sort out the rest, which is the antithesis of our society, which is, I'll do this for you if you do this for me. Tit for tat. But the story of Jesus is one hundred percent sacrificial. He did miracles. He did all these things and yet He was crucified. He never answered back. He just took it.

Marissa: And Jesus knew there would be people who would take advantage of that too and say I have the grace to sin more.

Robert: But He did it anyway. He still did it. It's a very important distinction as we're talking about becoming love to other people. It was really important to explore what this looks like.


We are not capable of love on our own. And until we know God’s love, we cannot give pure love. We give out of what we understand love to be from a human standpoint. The only source of true love, pure love is God.

The second thing, it's more than a feeling. It's really more of a posture of humility and a posture of action. In other words, we are aware of our humanity. We're aware of our brokenness, and our hurt, but we have also taken a posture of action because we know that it's God that fulfills love through us as a conduit. We are conduits of His love. And we are sacrificial and generous and we serve others.

The third thing is we are to work towards His model of love, knowing that we are not capable of doing it on our own.

And that is the litmus test that is 1 Corinthians 13. I love The Message Bible version of this. It’s so significant to put it in our own words. There are things that we can measure. But that being said, our last point is it's not our job to measure the outcomes. It is our job to be obedient, to manifest God's love for other people. God is very clear, when we do it to the least of these, we do it unto Him. It really isn't our job to measure the outcome.

Listener Question of the Week

How do I help my son be empowered or speak up for himself, especially with his dad?

Elizabeth: I'm walking through this with my son now and I don't know how it plays out with him speaking up with his dad per se, because obviously, I'm not there, but he speaks up for himself and I'm so proud. I would say the way that we've gotten to this point for him to have the confidence to be able to say what he needs, say what he's thinking without fear of me leaving is me giving him the space to do that and asking questions and not judging him, being open, and affirming him. That's not to say that I let him think he's right all the time. It's more about being open to him having his own thoughts, and his own feelings, and letting him be himself and being. And in that I feel like my being a safe place to do that then empowers him to go out into the world and practice that with other people.

Marissa: I'll just add to that, and my kids don't have a dad at home that they need to be empowered to speak up with. But I do work in healthcare and I see all too often the devastating consequences of people who don't know how to navigate a system and don't know how to speak up for themselves. It's been a big deal for me with my kids.

When I walk into a doctor’s appointment with them, my job is to teach them how to speak and be an advocate for themselves in the healthcare system because when you're 18 or 19, they are going to stop bringing me along. Just yesterday I was in the doctor's office with my son for post-op, for his surgery on his ankle. And there are a lot of times I use a lot of awkward pauses because the doctor will say, “How are things going?” I'm waiting for you to answer because I don't know how your ankle feels and yesterday I saw the fruit of 14 years of labor of this for the first time when Hunter, spoke up about how his ankle was and then he looked the doctor in the eye and he said, so what am I allowed to do from an exercise standpoint with my leg right now?

I thought that was an amazing question and I didn't have to answer it. It really hit home for me. The pediatrician said this is the first time in a long time your oldest has looked me in the eyes when he's talking to me. And so I knew there was behavior that was going on behind the scenes that made Colton not be able to look his pediatrician in the eyes and not have some of those conversations that he should have. And when his dad passed away, something changed and he was able to do that. I know it's just a minor relationship. It's 15 minutes probably, hopefully, no more than six times a year. But this ankle has been plaguing him. But there are relationships like that that I think we can really support our kids in making them their own advocates. And then other relationships will come.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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