“Countless times each day a mother does what no one else can do quite as well. She wipes away a tear, whispers a word of hope, eases a child’s fear. She teaches, ministers, loves, and nurtures the next generation of citizens” (James C. Dobson).
WHEN SOMEONE ENGAGES IN AN ACT THAT HAS A NURTURING EFFECT ON ANOTHER PERSON, ONE OF THE MOST WONDERFUL THINGS IN THE WORLD TAKES PLACE. Nurturing is wonderful both in its beauty and its benefit. It’s beautiful because it’s an act of grace, and it’s beneficial because it makes the difference between life and death. Nurturing is among the highest of human acts.
Although women often have a more natural aptitude for nurturing than men, nurturing is not just a female responsibility. Just as with other responsibilities, the responsibility to nurture is not limited to those who find it naturally easy. Whether we’re male or female, or young or old, we all have some duty in the matter of nurturing others.
“Nurture” comes from the same root as the words “nutrition” and “nourish.” In its most basic sense, it means to provide that which is needed for another person to survive and thrive. None of us is so independent that we can do without sustenance from anyone else. People need to be nurtured — and they need to nurture one another.
But like people, relationships also need to be nurtured. You can’t nurture a relationship, of course, without nurturing the people who are in it, but it’s helpful to think of relationships themselves as “persons” who need to be taken care of and given the proper nutrition.
Too much of the time, we’re interested in whether others are nurturing us and not in whether we’re nurturing them. The quality of our lives would be improved if we reversed this emphasis and started being more concerned about nurturing those around us. Being a nurturer — or at least being a good one — requires work. To provide the things that others need, we have to grow. We have to equip ourselves with the abilities that are necessary to nurture and to nourish. But if this work is important, it’s also satisfying. Indeed, there aren’t many things in this world more nourishing than to nourish someone else.
“Just as we are learning to value and conserve the air we breathe, the water we drink, the energy we use, we must learn to value and conserve our capacity for nurture. Otherwise, in the name of human potential we will slowly but surely erode the source of our humanity” (Elaine Heffner).