The apostle Paul summarizes the concept of compassion in Philippians 2:4, " Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." For me, this is the best description of a Happy Home. It is where each members of the family are so confident in their identity and role, they are released to look to the interests/concerns of the other members.
The Opposite of Compassion is Enmeshment
This is the opposite of Compassion. Enmeshment "refers to a condition where two or more people weave their lives and identities around one another so tightly that it is difficult for any one of them to function independently."*
Creating a Culture of Compassion in the Home
Since compassion is so simple a concept, a mistake we might make is that we expect this quality to develop on its own. Let me suggest a few ways we have tried to instill compassion in our home, our lives and in our children.
- Chores: Compassion (even in adulthood) always involves hard work and sacrifice. My wife and I have found that assigned chores for our kids gives them a tangible way to contribute to the family as a whole. Garbage, dishes, laundry, etc... are not just tasks that need to be accomplished, they are the training ground that teach our children to care for the family as a whole.
- Serving: This has happened on Thanksgiving Day as we serve at a meal for the poor in Philly. I have also involved them in serving a meal (with a little help) to my wife and I for our anniversary. They got dressed up in a black and white formal outfit, served the salad, meal, drinks, desert, and even cleaned up afterwards. They felt good making Mom & Dad happy and being a part of our anniversary celebration. To this day, they talk about that night. Winter is also a great time to help the elderly on your block with snow removal.
- Gifts: Have your kids be a part of pick out the Christmas gifts for each other. Set a limit (budget) for them and give them time to think it through. It is amazing how much more excited they become about the whole Christmas experience when they anticipate the reaction from their sibling. This year we had them each pick a name from a hat.
- Toys: My wife has also got our children toys that are compassionate in nature. For instance when our boys were younger, they were obsessed with Rescue Heroes. We encouraged this obsession much more than the alternative of Power Rangers. When they get gifts from people in the church or other friends, they are encouraged to write thank-you notes. Gratitude is a companion of compassion.
- Media: The obvious are the TV shows your kids watch. But going to church and learning about the compassionate heart of God in Bible stories, has also played an important role in our kid's learning.
Gratitude is a companion of compassion!
Compassion brings joy to self as we bring joy to others. It is more blessed to give than it is to receive. Lead your family in this discovery, and you'll have home filled with compassion, which is a happy home.
The greatest example of compassion I've read was the account of a 4-year-old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who recently had lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."
This young boy GOT IT!!!