Love and Latency

Almost every capacity we have develops in response to loving nurture.

At birth, virtually every ability we will ever have is latent. It is both hidden and undeveloped. Some of those abilities will develop. Others will never appear; they remain latent.

Those capacities that develop do so in response to loving nurture. Through loving speech, we learn to form words; holding onto the hands of loving parents, we learn to crawl and then to walk. Through loving correction, we learn not to bite or hit or call names or any of the myriad other ways we are tempted to abuse others. In response to love, we learn to love: to hug, and comfort; to help, and apologize; to listen, and learn. Neuroscientists call this serve and return interaction, but that is simply a description of the effects of love.

Tragically, in the absence of love, all of this beautiful healthy development is stunted. Neglected children in orphanages provide a tragic example. They lag their age-mates in virtually every developmental domain – even if they didn’t lack for food. Loving nurture isĀ our greatest need as human beings.

Parenting, Love and Latency

Loving care for young children not only cultivates their latent abilities, it also nurtures ours. In Playing God, Andy Crouch observes:

In fact, so far from being absolutely corrupted by the absolute power parenthood confers over a new human being, many parents find themselves awakening to new capacities for resilience, sacrifice and servanthood that they did not know they had before. . . . There is something about realizing how utterly dependent this newborn image bearer is upon you that calls forth from both mothers and fathers a fierce commitment to become better stewards of our power. (p43)

In loving care for our children, we draw out the as-yet-unseen beauty of that child; and in the act of loving, latent qualities of our own nature are awakened, cultivated and developed.

How have you seen your child(ren) develop in response to loving nurture?
And how have you observed new qualities in yourself and others as you engage in works of love?