By Kris Wolfe

[En español]

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:

  1. Serve—This is one the quickest ways to feel joy. No matter how bad a week is going, when I take time to serve at church I feel like it’s “all for something.” We need to feel purpose.
  2. Oppose Bullying—When we see someone be talked down to or hurt, we must run to his or her side. In time, our kids will learn that each of us has a responsibility to stand up for each other.
  3. Defend Others Against Gossip—When we hear someone speaking harshly about another who is not there to defend themselves, we must take up for them, or at the very least, change the subject immediately.
  4. Refrain from Harsh Judgment—We should refrain from criticizing those around us unfairly or judging their character. We should instead offer them the benefit of the doubt and humble prayers.
  5. Offer Forgiveness—Forgiveness is one the greatest gifts of compassion. We cannot truly say that we love God and not be willing to at least pray to be able to forgive those who have hurt us.
  6. Offer Generosity—Generous people are constantly looking for ways to help others by helping them meet their material needs or cooking for them when they are healing or overwhelmed. Generosity simply put is doing what is not expected and expecting nothing in return.
  7. Tithe—If we truly want to help the community in compassionate ways, we should support our church. If we are attending church, we should financially contribute. The church is more than preaching and worship music. It is a center for serving.
  8. Teach Social Responsibility—To teach social responsibility, we must make some things “our problem” and not just say, “Well isn’t that sad?” It’s doing something instead of just talking about it and being the answer to someone else’s prayer. If not us, then who?
  9. Speak Compassionately When Discussing World Issues—Kindness isn’t just for people that can see our faces or who look and live like us. Our kids need to see us caring about causes outside of our community and helping to care for people who can never say thank you. If our kids see us acting with an “us versus them mentality” they may come to believe that compassion is a limited recourse and not the regenerative resource that it truly is.
  10. Spend time with people who are different than you—Make friends with people of different faiths, ethnicities, and economic status. Befriend people who can do nothing for you and you will soon find out that they have more to offer your family than you can imagine. Get to know families with children who have special needs. You will fall in love with how great your kids can be just “loving on” and playing with kids who are different than them.
  11. Notice Our Neighbors—While we should contribute to world causes, we should open our eyes to those in front of us. Is there an elderly couple on your street that might enjoy a casserole or some light yard work done? Is there a family with a special needs child that hasn’t had a date night in a year that you can offer to babysit for? Look for ways to serve those around you and take your kids along. They will learn compassion through your example.

  12. 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
    About Kris Wolfe
    Tennessee | United States

    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.

    Kris covers topics such as dating, marriage, parenting, divorce, post-divorce recovery, and the blended family. Read more from Kris at: Clarksville, TN Online and her website.

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