Teaching Compassion

This morning I asked a year six boy what he thought the most important value was for kids. He said, “Kindness.” I asked him what kindness means to him and he said it means to be kind to other kids and then they would be kind to you. He’s on to something!



Thousands of years ago, sages in every culture taught a maxim of compassion we call the Golden Rule. “Do to others what you would like them to do to you.” This is the core reason for compassion — a knowledge that what comes around goes around.

Share and someone will share with you.

Care and someone will care for you.

Hard-wired into our early brain development, kindness is much deeper than a self-serving survival strategy. Compassion — which literally means “to suffer together” — builds strong bonds, friendships and relationships. When we feel compassion, it changes us. Our heart rate slows. Our brain releases oxytocin — the bonding hormone — and the regions of the brain responsible for empathy, caregiving, and pleasure engage. In short, being kind makes us happy.

In a world which teaches us to put ourselves first, how do we as parents teach our children to care for the needs of others? Once we get them started in compassionate behaviour, their brain’s reward system should take over and encourage them to be kind again and again.

Here are a few ideas for giving compassion a kick-start in your children:

Model Compassion: Do acts of kindness in front of your children. When you see someone drop something, pick it up and give it to them with a kind word. Help out at school functions. Hold the door for others. Always give to buskers. Back off in traffic to allow other cars to merge. After you do these things, talk about them with your children. What you did will combine with why you did it to bring compassion alive in your child’s mind.

A Family Pet: Get a pet that requires consistent but simple care — like hermit crabs or a mouse. As a family, design a list of care requirements and keep it next to the pet’s cage. Talk about the care rules as you follow them each day. After a few weeks with the pet in a shared area, move the cage and care rules into your child’s room for a weekend.

Service Activities: Get involved in activities where your family can give back to the community. Help serve at a soup kitchen. Donate a couple of hours to a local opshop. Help at working bees. Donate supplies to Breaky Club.

Values are caught not taught. Give your children the best chance to have a values-rich life by modelling and discussing the values you believe will benefit them. Start by seeing, sharing and caring for the suffering around you — this is compassion.

#8 The Jerusalem Council - Hope SS (with hot links)

1.      The challenge for the early Christian church

a)      Acts 13:42–49, why would the conversion of many Gentiles create a challenge for the early Christian church?
b)     Acts 15:1–5, the basic question: should Gentile Christians be required to follow all the Jewish laws, including circumcision?
c)      Acts 15:11, here is a clear confession that salvation comes by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why then is there such an insistence by some religious leaders regarding ceremonial laws?
d)     Why does Paul speak so sternly about these Judaizers? Galatians 1:7; Gal 2:4

2.      Circumcision

a)      Genesis 17:9–14, a sign of the covenant
b)     Exodus 12:43–49
c)      Why did Paul see an insistence on circumcision for Gentiles as a distortion of the Gospel Galatians 5:6, Romans 3:28–30
d)     How can we avoid the trap of thinking only people who are just like us can be saved?

3.      The lively discussion at the Jerusalem Council

a)      Acts 15:6–7, why is vigorous discussion and active involvement important in the Christian church? (see also Acts 6:2–6; Acts 13:1–3)
b)     Acts 15:7–11, what impresses you the most about the testimony of Peter?
c)      Acts 15:12, why is it important to listen and not just speak when you are seeking a solution to a potentially divisive problem?
d)     Acts 15:13–21, what solution did James propose?
e)     When disputes arise, how can we learn to listen to each other love and respect, and work through the issues with a spirit of humility?

4.      The Letter from Jerusalem and the Apostolic Decree

a)      Acts 15:22, what indication do you see that the group had arrived at a meaningful consensus?
b)     Acts 15:23–28, what impresses you about the way the letter is written?
c)      Acts 15:29, why do the apostles, elders, and brethren highlight the four prohibitions listed in this verse? (renunciation of paganism, outlined in Leviticus 17–18)
d)     Do these prohibitions imply issues like no idol worship (2nd commandment) or remembering the Sabbath day (4th commandment) no longer apply?
e)     Acts 15:30–33, how did the Christian believers respond to this letter from the Council in Jerusalem?

f)       What lessons can we learn from this process when dealing with challenges in the church today?

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...