We Have to Be Compassion

“We have to be compassion. We have to be love. We have to be kindness. We have to be those things we want to see in the world.” These were the words of Tavis Smiley on Democracy Now earlier this week, and they were precisely what I needed to hear. 

Much has been on my mind lately, as the most emotionally trying six months of my life seem to be coming to a head, and it all has to do primarily with relationships. There are moments when I want to run off and hole up someplace with no one other than Andrew and Annabelle. There are moments when I’m angry, and when I place blame. There are moments when I look at others, and I try not to, but I honestly do judge them. I have noticed this in particular more and more lately, as Annabelle gets to an age where she is watching intently and observing what people do. She will see me gritting my teeth in traffic. She will see my disapproving head shake when the driver of the car in front of me drops their cigarette butt out the window. She may even feel me tense up with frustration when I see other parents treating their children harshly in public. She will see these things, and she may even follow my example, unless I change.


I must learn to model the values I consider important without passing judgment on those who don’t agree. 


Smiley’s words above were part of a discussion of Martin Luther King’s speechBeyond Vietnam, which includes a great deal more that resonated with me. “Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence,” he says, “when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition…


…We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…

Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing — embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”


Dr. Montessori, too, spoke of love in The Absorbent Mind, and she described it as having its source in the child, saying: “I have already said that prophets and poets speak often of love as if it were an ideal; but it is not just an ideal, it is, has always been, and ever will be, a reality.” 

Love is already a reality in Annabelle’s life -she has taught and will continue to teach me more about love than I could ever teach her. My responsibility is not to teach her love and compassion, because she is inclined toward these values already. My responsibility is to protect these forces within her, to nurture them, and to take care not to model behaviors that are in opposition with them. I must be these things that I already see in her, so that she can hold onto and carry them into adulthood, being those same things for the next generation.

How do you model compassion, kindness, and love for your children? How do they model the same for you?

5 thoughts on “We Have to Be Compassion

  1. Annicles

    I try and fail on a daily basis to model love and patience and compassion. I find it much easier to do from a distance that nose-to-nose.

    However, I am mindful that these are qualities that I value and want to grow in myself as well as my children. I try very hard to show love and compassion when I deal with my children.

    It must be working because, although I often have to walk out of the room to compose myself and then come back and start again, at least I am modelling to the children how hard it can be to keep ones temper but that it is possible but it takes strength. My older children have started to copy this behaviour and catch themselves losing their temper and then try to control themselves. Livi is a little young at the moment and needs help but we are all working together, as a family on being more patient and compassionate to each other and those we deal with.

    To be honest, my children are saddened and upset when they see some-one throw a cigarette butt or scream at their children and that comes from themselves, not from copying my reaction. They have an embarrasing habit on commenting, in a fairly non-judgemental but sad and disappointed way on such behaviour. It has checked adults more than once to hear such opinions coming from the mouths of children.

    Reply
  2. MJ

    Great post :). It reminds me of the quote by Gandhi
    "Be the change you want to see in the world." :)

    One of the best ways I try to model compassion to the kids is by being forgiving and patient with myself, admitting when I have made mistakes (which is all the time) and showing them lovingly that I can be gentle with myself when it happens. Translation–we all mess up, and it's ok.

    In the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen, he suggests that the next time we see that screaming kid in the store or that mom getting ready to have a nervous breakdown, go up to them, be kind, even funny and let them know they are not alone, and that we've been there. I haven't had a chance to do this yet, but I want to. How amazing would it be if this kindness was a norm in our community? Instead of all us quietly and desperately immersed in our troubles, a stranger reaches out and says "hey, I get like that too.".

    One day…
    Have a great MLK day :)!

    Reply
  3. melissa joanne

    I so appreciate your examples, ladies. We all fail at times, but I think our children will more from our honest attempts and our willingness to admit we've failed here and there, than they ever could from feigned perfection.

    I love Playful Parenting! So glad you mentioned that bit, MJ :)

    Reply
  4. melissa

    I so appreciate your examples, ladies. We all fail at times, but I think our children will more from our honest attempts and our willingness to admit we've failed here and there, than they ever could from feigned perfection.

    I love Playful Parenting! So glad you mentioned that bit, MJ :)

    Reply
  5. Annicles

    I try and fail on a daily basis to model love and patience and compassion. I find it much easier to do from a distance that nose-to-nose.

    However, I am mindful that these are qualities that I value and want to grow in myself as well as my children. I try very hard to show love and compassion when I deal with my children.

    It must be working because, although I often have to walk out of the room to compose myself and then come back and start again, at least I am modelling to the children how hard it can be to keep ones temper but that it is possible but it takes strength. My older children have started to copy this behaviour and catch themselves losing their temper and then try to control themselves. Livi is a little young at the moment and needs help but we are all working together, as a family on being more patient and compassionate to each other and those we deal with.

    To be honest, my children are saddened and upset when they see some-one throw a cigarette butt or scream at their children and that comes from themselves, not from copying my reaction. They have an embarrasing habit on commenting, in a fairly non-judgemental but sad and disappointed way on such behaviour. It has checked adults more than once to hear such opinions coming from the mouths of children.

    Reply

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