I remember when my eldest son was watching an episode of Sesame Street and he was getting visibly distressed. The character, Baby Bear, lost his pet bird. So Baby Bear was also visibly distressed. My child was reacting to the emotion he was seeing Baby Bear express. And he was in turn expressing that emotion with Baby Bear. My son put himself in Baby Bear’s shoes, in other words, my son was showing empathy.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…” (Philippians 2:3)
Empathy Is In Us All
It was such a proud moment for me. It showed me that the capacity for empathy is in us all, but it is something developed by watching others show compassion. Because my son saw my husband and I comforting him and others in times of distress and offering compassion, kindness, and love to others, he was able to do it too. In order to show our kids how to be empathic friends, we need to show them that we are empathic friends. When we surround ourselves with kindhearted, gentle, sensitive people, then our kids will follow our lead and behave that way as well. They will also want to have friends with the same qualities.
Some of my favorite moments as a mom are when I see my three boys empathizing with each other. When I look over and see one of my boys picking up his brother after he has fallen down, or offering a hug when he’s having a hard moment, my heart swells with pride. One time, my middle son was yelling at me for disciplining the youngest for dumping his milk all over the floor. My middle boy tried to defend the youngest by saying it was an accident and he didn’t mean to do it. Although, I was certain that picking your milk cup up and deliberately dumping it upside down was DEFINITELY no accident, I was still proud of my middle boy for empathizing with the youngest and trying to protect him.
We have all heard the quote, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” (Jennifer Dukes Lee) My prayer is that I raise kind, empathetic children. Of course, I want them to be happy, successful, God-fearing, confident people. But I really hope their kindness emanates to all those around them. And that it is apparent that they love others deeply.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)