Ask any parent what they hope for in their children and almost all of them will mention happiness. We all desire happiness for our children and ourselves. We can even worship our own happiness at times, chasing down impossible standards of perfect happiness found only in a children’s book.
But chasing happiness can be like tracking a Yeti. The more time we spend striving for happiness and focusing on our own desires, the more saddened and disheartened we can become. Happiness is not found in serving our wishes and whims. Happiness is found in serving others and maintaining healthy relationships with those around us.
We are not required to be in a romantic relationship to be happy. Quite the contrary. There are many people who live a very satisfactory life as a single man or woman. But we are required to have kind and caring relationships with others: our co-workers, family members, friends, and even strangers. And nothing will carry a relationship further than compassion.
Jesus’ compassion to people was evident through his healing, feeding and caring for them throughout the New Testament. When the leper approached Jesus, he kneeled before Him and said, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40)
Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. (Mark 1:41-42)
With Jesus’ healing powers, this act may not seem like a very big deal, or like much of a sacrifice on Jesus’ behalf. But Jesus was there to teach and even though He asked the leper not to share his healing story with others, that is exactly what the leper did (just as most people did when Jesus healed them), and the overwhelming response to Jesus’ healing powers kept Him from entering the city openly, keeping Him from His original mission of teaching there. Compassion overrode His agenda.
There is much to learn from Jesus’ example and if we desire happiness for our children, we much teach them compassion. Compassion, however, is a lifestyle, not merely a life lesson. Compassion can be easy to model on our best days, and easily tossed away when our plans supersede our compassion for others.
Here are some ways we can teach our children about compassion:
Compassion is a skill that never stops increasing with practice. And our children will need a lot of practice too. It’s important to praise them when they help others or remember to pray for them.
It’s also extremely important that we do not attack their character when they do something that is inconsiderate or that seems mean-spirited. Kids go through phases, but we also must be clear that we do not tolerate cruelty or abuse.
If a lack of compassion seems to be a prominent thread in your child’s personality or if you suspect that your child is a bully or has anger management issues, please talk to his or her pediatrician and consider counseling. You can also consider purchasing a workbook that caters to their age group and your specific concerns with their behavior. In these cases, modeling proper behavior may not be enough, and an intervention may be in order.
In the long run, compassion must be our goal if we want it to be our legacy. Compassion must be firmly backed by intentional living and planning for opportunities for kindness. How would your day be different if you started your day with this prayer?
Heavenly Father, I desire to show love, compassion and kindness to my family, friends and even strangers today. Help me to see opportunities to be kind and to serve others in even the smallest of ways. Help me be Your hands and feet today. In the name of our compassionate Savior I pray. Amen.
For the sake of a kinder more compassionate world, I pray this prayer with you.
Kris Wolfe is a Christian, wife and mother. She is a freelance writer who focuses on spiritual and practical encouragement, writes lessons for small group purposes for churches, and is also a small group coach. Kris has a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Luther Rice University and Seminary and is a listed TN Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.
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