Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Roger Allred’s blog. It has been republished here with permission.
Compassion is one of the great virtues of all major religions of the world. Even non-religious associations typically embrace compassion because compassion is basic to being a fully-developed human being.
Parents have a responsibility to teach compassion to their children, not only to perpetuate a civilized society, but also so their children will be able to enjoy the society of others and be happy. Compassion is an active form of love that is expressed by being aware of the needs of others and doing what you can to meet those needs.
The following are critical concepts of compassion.
1. Acts of compassion make us feel good
“Happiness and peace will come to earth only as the light of love and human compassion enter the souls of men.” — David O. McKay
Shawn Achor, winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University and author of “The Happiness Advantage” states, “A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism — giving to friends and strangers alike — decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.”
We really don’t need empirical research to know that doing good makes us feel good. It is intuitive and everyone who does it knows it.
2. Compassion helps us connect with other humans
“Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy.” — Chogyam Trungpa
We all know people who show kindness and compassion to those around them. These people are universally liked and admired. We are drawn to these people because of how they make us feel.
3. Compassion is the basis of civilized society
“I can do no other than be reverent before everything that is called life. I can do no other than to have compassion for all that is called life. That is the beginning and the foundation of all ethics.” — Albert Schweitzer
Wherever groups of people live together in a community, compassion must exist in order to create an attitude of cooperation. Since tragedy is a normal part of the human condition, demonstrations of compassion bond people in the society to one another. Even the rich and powerful have need of compassion.
The more civilized the society, the more compassion is shown for the weak and those who are unlike the norm. The most advanced societies are those that take care of their own and then reach out to all that need help. Although not perfect, the United States of America has typically been one of those societies.
Compassion and tolerance, however, do not mean an acceptance of evil or anti-social behavior. We must teach our children to love all people, while abhorring evil, wherever it manifests itself.
4. Compassion must be expressed
“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.” — Dalai Lama
We all appreciate an act of kindness, a supportive comment, or even just a kind smile. It is impossible to be compassionate and ignore others. Those who “remember the little things” really understand compassion.
Often we will see someone having difficulty and say to ourselves, “I wish there was something I could do, but I don’t know that person very well,” or “someone else is taking care of their needs,” or “I don’t want to bother them at this time because they are already so busy.” So, we do nothing.
Consider Proverbs 3:27, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”
5. Compassion requires sacrifice
“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” — Daniel Goleman
It isn’t easy to be compassionate because it requires effort on our part. Passivity and compassion aren’t good companions. My wife is a wonderful example of service. Even while raising our nine children, she would consistently look for opportunities to help someone in need by delivering a home cooked meal, making a phone call or sending a note of appreciation and encouragement.
Parents can use these five concepts to teach their children about compassion, thus bringing joy to their children, to their entire family and to the society where their family lives. However, when parents also model compassionate behavior, their children are much more likely to learn this essential virtue.