Good kids. Good families. And yet, hurtful words and actions still happen.
And I wonder, why is it that people do things that intentionally or predictably hurt others?
Why are kids willing to look at a peer and exclude him or her from a seat at lunch or a spot in a recess game?
Why do students, at times, make a conscious choice to make teaching and learning harder for everyone around them?
Why do words of criticism, or anger, or disrespect so easily flow from the mouths of some?
Why do taunting nicknames or slurs get repeated even after the damage they do is obvious?
Biblically, we are fallen people. But many of these kids have faith in Jesus and recognize their sinful nature, the need for repentance, for receiving grace, and God’s call to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
And still, hurtful words and actions can reappear.
A lack of empathy seems to be one cause. So growing empathy in our children can be expected to improve their care for others.
Empathy, by definition, is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
Do kids understand what it is like to be taunted or excluded? I would bet they do. I also bet that even though they have experienced this, they struggle to recognize that another person would feel the same way. And frankly, they struggle to truly care about that impact.
So empathy as just intellectual understanding is not enough. It must include sharing (sharing in) the feelings of another. To feel it along with the other person. To put oneself in the other person’s shoes. To see the pain and hurt on their face and to feel it along with the other person.
Jesus did this. He came and lived and died as a human. He was the ultimate example of empathy.
Can we work on developing this incredibly life-changing tool in our children?
In His Children’s Service, Robert C. Boyd