Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Developing Compassion in our Children

Compassion. My favorite word. Kat
has made developing Compassion in our children the topic for Parenting University this week. For me as a parent, I hope to live the principle which is a far better teacher than words.

I believe compassion is a gift given by God already present inside children. It's a gift something like innocence and purity. Ever seen a small child cry when she stumbles upon a dead bug? Ever had a little one gently rub your hand when you are shedding tears? So why don't all children continue to exhibit compassion? I think it has more to do with adults not preserving, even stomping out the gift in children. Tragically, I know I have done so with my own children. For example, when we lived in the city, my children cried out, "Mom! That person has a sign that says they are hungry. Aren't Christians supposed to feed the hungry?" My answer? "We don't have time for that. We're on our way to..." or "It's too risky to talk to a stranger." "We already give to..." I wrestled my conscience for a long while over these calloused positions and finally came up with doable solutions. One great remedy was pulling together bags to hand out with pop top food, napkins, and shelter phone numbers plus fifty cents for the call.

Country life does not afford that kind of opportunity, but opportunities of compassion come abundantly in other forms. When my child excitedly shouts, "Hurry! Come look at the bluebird." I decide I'd better drop everything to take the time enjoy the moment with him. Otherwise, I'll diminish the importance of my child's passion. I also try to eliminate judgement from my talk in daily life as much as possible, especially about people not present. No more "He's such a creep, because...", "What a jerk!" "She deserved everything she got." "He's a bad person for all these reasons." "What a loser." Every single human being on the earth has value whether they continually make poor choices or act exactly as I'd like. We strip away compassion in ourselves and our children when we make out anyone, stranger or lover, as disposible in some way. The message of "bad guys, good guys" with no hope of forgiveness leaves everyone in a vulnerable position of moving to being unforgivable themself one day. How many times have I done just what I'd hope I'd never do? Lose my temper with a child? Use cutting and thoughtless words? Manipulate someone for selfish purposes? Use force rather than waiting for natural consequence to take it's course? I believe I owe compassion even to myself in order that I might offer it to others.

Here are some quotes which tell it much better than myself.

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Frederick Buechner

"All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives."
Dalai Lama

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
Dalai Lama

"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."
Dalai Lama

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“Make no judgements where you have no compassion.”

"Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Secret Life of Kat said...

I'm going to be thinking about this post for awhile. I was especially struck by this line:

"We strip away compassion in ourselves and our children when we make out anyone, stranger or lover, as disposible in some way."

I also really like the idea of putting together bags to hand out.

Good stuff, friend. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

truevyne said...

I love the opportunity you have created for sharing.

Shayne said...

Hey Truevyne! Great post. Hope all is well with you and yours.