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.
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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.

Creative K Kids