Some family math: curiosity + attention = ?


You start with a desire for your family to be headed in a good direction. Well that’s easy, we all want that!

Then you do a tough internal thing: you accept your family unconditionally, and accept your role to influence them on purpose. Hmm, even without them accepting the same thing? Well, OK, but yes that is tough.

What’s next? Something you can do a little bit of every single day.

Let’s say you and I are talking. I look you in the eye and sincerely ask a few insightful questions about something you did, why you did it, how it made you feel, and what you wanted to see happen. I listen and ask a question and listen some more. You do most of the talking.

You can tell if my questions and curiosity are driven by duty, or by my own self-interest, or to catch you at something, or to gather gossip. You can tell if I’m trying to get credit for seeming interested.

And you can tell if I’m curious because I really am interested in you, and because I think my curiosity is going to be satisfied by discovering something worthy from you. When someone does this with me I feel honored. I feel they care. I feel I must be valuable. And I remember who it was that made me feel that way.

Be curious and sincerely care, listen without pushing or having an agenda, do it consistently in the little moments, and your family will feel honored and valuable, too. They’ll feel loved. And they’ll remember who made them feel that way.

Curiosity + attention = love

When you feel honored, valuable, and loved, what happens? You calm down. Your self-protective exterior gets soft. You lose the urgency to win and prove yourself and be right. You feel a bit generous and unselfish.

How does a calm, soft, generous, unselfish family sound to you? Genuine curiosity and attentiveness move you in that direction, moment by moment.

No, most of the time you don’t sit down with family members and give each other your undivided attention in a conversation. It’s a good idea and sometimes you do it, but family life is usually as-you-go. Many little moments add up.

What does your attention and curiosity lead you to discover? What do you see when your curiosity is satisfied?

You see inside a soul. You learn who they are and how they feel and why they do and think what they do. You hear their heartbeat.

Curiosity + attention = vision

The vision is NOT your vision for that person. It’s a vision that’s already present apart from you. You can’t see the whole thing, but you get hints from the heartbeat that you hear in the soul. You get a clue that something is going on, and if you stay curious and attentive you begin to gather dots to connect.

This is a privileged place. God is up to something in this person that he created, and you’re getting a little peak at what he’s up to. When this person is a family member and you love them, an awesome honor presents itself: the honor of cooperating with God in what he’s doing in someone you love.

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out – Proverbs 20.5

Here’s where the ground can get loose. You don’t know everything that’s going on, and you can easily mix in your own ideas and desires with what you think you see. This cooperation needs to be done with humility, since we all hardly know what God is up to even in our own selves.

A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way? – Proverbs 20.24

We all need help understanding our way. Wouldn’t you love to have someone who cared enough to commit to cooperating with what God is doing in you? Your family would love to have the same thing – and they do: you.

When was the last time you felt loved by someone giving you attention and sincere curiosity?

About the Author


Gary Morland helps you feel better about your most challenging family relationships, and helps you actually improve those relationships - all by adopting simple attitudes, perspectives, expectations, and actions (the same ones that changed him and his family).


  1. Linda

    It’s a real struggle to remember when (or even IF) that last happened…….but maybe I can be the change I hope to see……

    • I believe this: “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Somehow, someway, “pressed down and running over”

  2. Veronica

    Hi Gary,

    Just like Linda said, I can’t remember the last time someone gave me their undivided attention and sincere curiosity. We live in a “drive through world”…everything is done quickly and without much personal attention.

    Your article got me to take a moment to pause and reflect.

    I loved the part where you said “You see inside a soul. You learn who they are and how they feel and why they do and think what they do. You hear their heartbeat.” Giving someone our undivided, sincere attention allows us the privilege to see inside their soul! To be able to see past someone’s exterior to the crux of who they are is an amazing thing!

    Thanks for the reminder. I plan on remembering this and using it with my family and those around me.

    God Bless.

    • Love that. God designed the family as a place of influence with each member – what you give should catch on and come back to you some way

  3. Pam Cason

    This is a timely post for me. I’ve been praying specifically on how to tap into and work in line with what God is shaping and forming my boys for in their futures. I try to zone in and really listen to them, but unfortunately I don’t do this like I should. Your post has encouraged me to begin again today.

  4. m

    For myself, its always God who gives that undivided love & attention. This helps me to accept, love, and nurture those around me without expectations of how I think they should act:) Hard to do sometimes, yes, but with Him in my corner; piece of cake! Thanks again, G! So enjoy your posts, big time…HUGE!!!
    Blessings & <3

  5. This is a great post Gary. “Curiosity + Attention = Love” speaks to me, because I think that’s exactly what I need to give my boys. I’m usually worn out by the end of the day, I don’t have much energy or patience to give them enough attention with curiosity. I need to write down that formula and put that on a wall, so that I can repeat like a mantra…

    • small moments add up – even one small moment a day

      • This was the most practical advice I received and I just worked on that today. One small moment with my older son. This made me feel really good, and my son was happy I was paying attention to him. It’s impossible to be perfect throughout the day, but if I take moment by moment, this really works! THANK YOU!

        • the hard part’s making it a habit. But I promise it will add up.

  6. Kelley

    Thanks for this post. Something I needed to hear. I am in the season of learning to parent new adults – young people who want to do the right thing, but still (one in particular) haven’t lived long enough to have the wisdom that comes from seeing more of life. I want to be there, but in the right amount. Enough to listen and try to offer what wisdom and insight I can, but not so much as to be overbearing.

    This paragraph in particular got my attention: “Here’s where the ground can get loose. You don’t know everything that’s
    going on, and you can easily mix in your own ideas and desires with what
    you think you see. This cooperation needs to be done with humility,
    since we all hardly know what God is up to even in our own selves.”

    Since you are farther along this parenting path than I am, thank you for the insight you have to offer me.

    • Not just parenting; spouses, brothers and sisters . . . You’re right, the balance between help and overbearing is hard to gauge. Thanks!


  1. […] the great power that comes from a peaceful attitude of trust. Find moments to give genuine attention knowing it’s an act of love and an act of curiosity about what God is up to in each family […]

Speak Your Mind