Jesus told us to become like children and love each other, which makes sense since children love with their whole hearts. Children are also known for curiosity. I’ve been suspicious this is a trait we should replicate asap. Do you feel loved by someone who’s never curious to hear what you want to say? And why do I fail to be interested when someone I love shares with me? Dr. Bruce D. Perry tells about visiting kids in the hospital. He would offer them a new toy or one from home and they’d pick the familiar toy. Once they were home, he’d visit and offer the same options. They’d choose the new toy. He explained how curiosity is a function of security and the kids felt secure at home. When things are scary (like a hospital stay for a child), humans don’t have the capacity to explore or experience wonder. Curiosity is a glorious privilege, born from a sense of safety.

Curiosity is a function of security.

Years ago, I noticed on vacation I was patient and interested when someone talked about something I didn’t absolutely need to know. In normal life, I strained if the topic wasn’t relevant to me. More recently, I’ve realized my stress level is directly correlated to how hard it is to pay attention when my kids tell me something. Impatience and disinterest are not signs I don’t care. They signal me that I’m overwhelmed. By contrast, when relaxing on vacation, I have all the time in the world to dally and hear a stranger explain dam management, which I will use…never.

Early Adventists understood curiosity about spiritual ideas was dependent on safety and committed so fiercely to antislavery, they disfellowshipped people who didn’t hold this view.* They saw their fellow human’s thriving as the prerequisite for conversion and saw to the needs of enslaved Blacks, despite danger. Mission work reflects this idea when we go outside the United States, providing care before suggesting new spiritual ideas.

All this calls me to consider two things. First, what can I do to feel safer so I can take genuine interest in people? Process trauma? Say “no” sometimes? Second, how can I help threatened groups of people feel safe? Support an antiracism group? Offer to watch my single friend’s kids so he can have some time to himself? Donate to an organization that protects homeless LGBTQ teens? Pay for someone’s counseling sessions?

Jesus told us to love one another. When that feels impossible, I can check to see if the road block I’m up against is feeling unsafe.

*Jeffrey Rosario, Douglas Morgan, Benjamin Baker, and Kevin Burton (Adventist historians) speak on this topic here.