What is the one trait you want your child to possess when he leaves home?
Happiness? Responsibility? Self-discipline? Honesty?
When our big girls were much younger, Ryan and I posed this same question to each other.
I didn't have to think long at all to come up with the one character trait that I wanted to do my best to instill in my daughters.
Merriam-Webster defines compassion as "a sympathetic consciousness of other's distress together with a desire to alleviate it."
Let's get a little simpler.
Compassion is an understanding of how someone else is feeling and wanting to do something about it.
Did you catch that?
See, compassion is a two-part character trait.
The first half of the definition is simply pity. A feeling of sadness or sympathy for someone.
But what I love about compassion? It takes that sympathetic feeling, that pity, and does something!
And this, my friends, is what the world could use a whole lot more of, don't you think?
Click here to watch this short video and see if you don't agree with me.
Bullying makes me sick.
It literally makes me nauseous.
And my heart breaks to think that there are children in this world who hate going to school, not because they don't like the homework, but because they are ostracized, left out, made fun of, beat up, verbally abused, and made to feel like they are worthless.
And something has got to be done about it.
Yes, schools, teachers, principals, filmmakers, counselors can all address bullying until they're blue in the face.
But you know where compassion starts?
I'm tired of hearing, "well, kids will be kids" and "kids can be so mean" and "it's just a phase - all kids go through it" and "I was bullied and I'm tougher for it".
That is a bunch of bunk.
Mom and Dad, compassion starts with you.
It starts with a parent, modeling compassion in the home.
A parent raising a child who will not stand for bullying.
A child who will not sit in a classroom and allow other students or a teacher to make fun of a fellow student.
A child with enough self-esteem and integrity to stand up for someone when no one else will.
A child who will reach out to someone who needs a friend.
A child who will not laugh and join in on hurting someone with words or fists. Or simply stand by and do nothing, like pity would do.
A child willing to look past another's exterior and see that person for who he is - a child of God, made in His image, loved by God, and worthy of being treated with dignity.
But it must be intentionally taught.
One of the best ways I know how to teach this is through "if-then" type scenarios.
Present your children with hypothetical situations in which someone is being bullied. Then ask them what they would do. Do this over and over, again and again. Until it almost becomes routine. Until their reaction to bullying almost becomes second nature. So that when your child witnesses bullying, it won't be the first time he's thought about it. He'll know what to do.
As a parent, teach your children the difference between pity and compassion. Teach your children to not fear people who are different by spending time with them. Then be a family who shows compassion. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Visit nursing homes. Take a mission trip. Sponsor a needy child. Befriend someone with special needs. Have your child be a peer model in a special needs school. Be a buddy at church. Serve at a camp for underprivileged children.
Just do something.
Because bullying has got to stop.
And it's going to take our kids to put an end to it.
Let's start right here. Right now.
"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8