Nature, Nurture, and Compassion

Nature vs. Nurture? It’s a common argument that may never be settled, but one thing I know about me:  it’s my nature to nurture.
When I was a teenager, I was crazy about babies.  I mean, who doesn’t love a baby but I could hardly stop thinking about how much I wanted one of my own.  It’s a good thing I got married when I was 22 so I could go ahead and get started on that!  I wanted ten but ultimately had to settle for five.
Five Kids
I’m not a big animal lover honestly, but just let a stray cat appear on our porch and I’m suddenly all about helping the kids make friends with it and hoping it stays around.  Over the course of the past twenty years or so we’ve adopted about eight cats this way.
cicely and mary
There are often stray people hanging around our house too.  My oldest son is also a big-time nurturer.  He has friends over all the time, and he is frequently in my kitchen feeding them.  I try to be annoyed by them, but before long find myself calling them sweetie and worrying that they are not taking good care of themselves.
I’m writing this post as part of 1000 Speak for Compassion, which is an initiative to flood the internet with good on the 20th of each month.  Compassion, literally, means to suffer with someone. The Bible tells us that Jesus experienced compassion: Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds,  he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless,  like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus’s compassion for the people led Him to action:  and not only did He nurture them, by healing their sick, sharing God’s word with them, and feeding them, He also called on us to do the same.
1000Speak blank
Nurturing springs from a place of compassion.  You hear a baby crying, and instantly you feel what it would be like to be helpless and hungry with no way to alleviate your condition, and you are moved to care for that child.  You see a cold and wet cat sitting outside, and you think of being cold and lonely and want to help.  These connections may not be conscious, but they are there.
Some people are more naturally nurturing than others, no doubt.  But compassion and nurturing are qualities that we can instill in our children, simply by modeling them both in our care for our kids and for those around us.  Children who are nurtured and cared for compassionately are far more likely to do the same than those who are abused and ignored–that’s no mystery.
It should be relatively easy to nurture your own children and treat them with compassion–at least most of the time! But we have to go further if we want to create a nurturing and compassionate society.  Just yesterday a friend posted on Facebook about how children parrot the ugly views of their parents online.  We have to look at the way we are treating others in society, and the way we are talking about them.  Actions may speak louder than words, but words are still important.  If you talk disrespectfully about “the least of these” by calling them lazy or freeloaders, you aren’t exactly modeling compassion for your kids even if you donate food to the church pantry.  You can’t be truly compassionate towards people when you distance yourself from them.  You’ll teach your children a lot more about nurturing and compassion by shaking hands with homeless man on the street and asking him his name than by writing a check to a charity.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. 
Matthew 35-36
#1000 Speak
For more words of wisdom from the 1000 Speak community, please go here.

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  1. Jen @ Driftwood Gardens says:

    I absolutely LOVE this. It is so important for us to truly teach our kids compassion by practicing it in all that we say and do. Hypocrisy will not be lost on them if we say one thing but do another. Thanks for this great piece on nurturing love and compassion in our children.

  2. Christine says:

    You are right. We need to meet the people we are helping. A check doesn’t smile or hug or nurture. We need to look them in the eyes with love and compassion in order to let them know they matter.

  3. It is important to learn and teach compassion. Very nice article.

  4. Beautiful writing and great points! We do need to be good examples. I wish had been better when my children were younger.

  5. thecubiclechick says:

    Train em up and teach them while they are young. I love what 1000 voices community stands for. Great post.

  6. agy says:

    This is very valid. Compassion for others brings out the best in us. Just the other day we were talking to our kids about being compassionate to their not so well off peers in school, and to those who dont do so well either. Our question to the kids are “How so you help them be better?”

  7. SixPackMommy says:

    Beautiful. Compassion is such a vital gift that we can choose to extend to one another, but it’s a rarity these days. I second thecubiclechick’s comment: “Train them up and teach them while they are young.” Well said.

  8. Crystal says:

    “If you talk disrespectfully about “the least of these” by calling them lazy or freeloaders, you aren’t exactly modeling compassion for your kids even if you donate food to the church pantry.”
    This sentence is some major food for thought for me. First of all, in my opinion ‘the least of these’ does not include anyone living in the United States. I think about it globally. It causes me to struggle with being compassionate towards individual’s who I feel are intentionally taking advantage of the system. I know there are many people who use gov’t assistance correctly, but there are many who don’t. I complain about the gov’t policies rather than the individual people in front of my children most of the time, but I should definitely watch my tongue.

  9. The fact that your eldest son brings his pals home all the time speaks volumes. Wonderful job, Mom.

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