The Emotional Development of Children and on Christian Hope

Unfortunately, in many good Orthodox Christian families, life is arranged in such a way that the parents consciously guard their children from contact with human need, sorrow, heavy difficulties and trials.

The emotions of the human heart, and many other emotions, have a great significance for the Christian. For example,the elevated feelings of sympathy and antipathy, of mercy, compassion, etc., must be developed in the heart of the Orthodox Christian – if possible, from the very earliest years.

Alas, all too often this does not happen. Unfortunately, in many good Orthodox Christian families, life is arranged in such a way that the parents consciously guard their children from contact with human need, sorrow, heavy difficulties and trials. Such an excessive protection of children from sober reality brings only negative results. Children who have grown up under greenhouse conditions, separated from life, grow up soft, spoiled and not well adjusted for life, often thick skinned egoists, accustomed only to demanding and receiving, and not knowing how to yield, to serve or to be useful to others. Life can break such people cruelly, and sometimes punishes them unbearable, often from their early school years. It is necessary, therefore, for those who love their children to temper them. Above all, there must always be one definite Orthodox Christian aim set before both parents and children: that children, while growing and developing physically, must also grow and develop spiritually, that they may become better, kinder, more pious and more sympathetic.

In order to accomplish this, however, it is necessary to allow children to come into contact with people’s needs and wants, and to give them the opportunity to help. Then the children themselves will strive for goodness and truth; for everything that is pure, good and bright is especially near to the soul of the unspoiled child.

Those emotions about whcih we have spoken, including the highest of them – mercy and compassion – are met with in all people. Speaking now of feelings of a purely Christian kind, we pause on the feeling of Christian hope. Christian hope can be defined as a sincere, vivid remembrance of God, inseparably tied with the assurance of His Heavenly love and help. A man who has such hope always and everywhere feels himself under the Father’s protection, just as he everywhere and always sees the infinite vault of heaven above him in the physical world. Therefore, an Orthodox Christian who hopes in God will never come to despair, will never feel himself hopelessly alone. A situation can seem hopeless only to an unbeliever. A believer, one who hopes in God, knows His nearness to the sorrowing human heart and will find comfort, courage and help in Him.

Of course, the crown and summit of Christian hope is in the future. We Orthodox Christians know that our Symbol of Faith, in which all the basic truths of the Christian Faith are gathered, ends with the words, “I await (expect and earnestly long for) the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come, Amen.”

So a full realization of the bright Christian hoep will arrive when life finally triumphs over death and God’s truth over worldly untruth. Then every woe will be healed, for “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish nor grief nor pain any more…” “And eternal joy will be in their hands”. (Rev. 21:4; Isa. 35:10).

Here is the summit, crown and full realization of Orthodox Christian hope, and the triumph of those who, in this earthly life, were persecuted and oppressed and banished for Christ’s truth.

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