Fostering Understanding

Today, I'm going to talk about a concept that has become something of a dirty word in our society -- tolerance. So many times a disagreement will degenerate into someone calling someone else intolerant, simply because they don't agree on an issue. Many times, people will call Christ-followers intolerant because we believe that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God.

Jesus, himself, said "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). However, Jesus was also the picture of understanding. He hung out with the poor, the tax collectors and the sick. These were people who were normally shunned in His society. No one could accuse Him of being intolerant.

We want to foster the qualities of compassion and understanding in our children. We want them to exhibit those qualities just like Jesus did. Yesterday, we talked about how to support your kids when they make choices that are outside the accepted norm among their peers. Today, let's discuss the importance of teaching our kids to accept others who may not fit the stereotypical mold and even to live at peace with those that they may not necessarily get along with all the time.

My oldest daughter has a child in her class that the other kids have decided to pick on. My oldest has an inborn sense of compassion that makes her go out of her way to help others to start with, but the plight of this little boy really bothers her. We've talked about it over and over again throughout the year. She's decided the best thing she can do is to simply continue to treat this little boy just like she would any other child in her class. Several times she's found herself in the position of standing up for this child to the others. That's the way we want our kids to act when faced with a situation where a child is different.

Creating compassion and understanding for others is a process that can only be fostered at home. What your kids see at home is how they will act when they are away from you. Even with children that they tend to butt heads with, we want our kids to act with compassion and understanding. Romans 12:18 says "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Compassion and understanding go a long way toward helping your kids to live at peace with everyone.

To help foster compassion and understanding, try some of these ideas:

  • Remind your kids that God loves everyone, including those children who are different or who rub them the wrong way.
  • Add the kids with whom your children are having trouble to your family prayer list. Nothing takes away animosity like praying for someone. It's hard to hang onto anger or frustration when you're praying for someone.
  • Encourage your children to be champions of the "weak." Point out times when Jesus championed someone who was disliked or considered weak in His society. Celebrate the times when your kids stand up for others in the face of ridicule or peer pressure. Create a Champion award that you give to your child when they show compassion and understanding to someone else.
  • Point out to your children some famous people that were different as children. Albert Einstein had trouble learning to read. His teachers thought He was stupid.  He went on to become probably the most famous scientist. Talk about what the world would have been like if everyone had given up on Einstein.
  • Model compassion and understanding for your kids. Look for ways that you can stand up for others in your own life. When your kids see you doing it, it will become easier for them to do it as well.

Offering compassion and understanding to others doesn't mean that you always have to agree with them. Jesus didn't always agree with what the people He helped were doing, but He loved them anyway. We can show compassion and understanding to others without offering approval to everything they do. The goal is to love like Jesus loved, so that others can see Jesus in us.