I am a first grader at heart, and I readily admit it. I love sparkly clothes, puppies, glitter, knock-knock jokes, animated movies, and I think loud burps are funny, not gross. Thankfully, I get to hang out with first graders every day as their teacher, and we have a very special connection. We get each other.
Here’s one thing I’ve realized about first graders and adults: We’re actually more alike than I think most people want to admit. For example, did you speed up to pass the slow car in front of you this morning, only to end up stopped at a red light as that same car smugly pulled up behind you? That happens every day in my classroom when kids jostle each other to be first in line. Or maybe you curtly set the barista straight about the fact that the person she just called up to the counter arrived after you did—and that you had been waiting [GASP!] for a full three minutes. Or maybe your spouse set you off, you lashed out, and after several minutes of angry verbal ping-pong you screamed, “Hey! YOU are the one who started all this!” Yep—I address all of this and more in my classroom every day. Basics, people. These are the basics.
Patience, kindness, forbearance, gratefulness, courtesy—these are all things I’m charged with teaching and modeling to children every day. It sure would make my job so much easier if more adults made an effort to act the way we should. If you know you’re lacking in these character qualities, there is good news: It is not too late to change.
It starts with a decision to forfeit your need to be first, right, and entitled in order to put others first, let them be right, and to take a lesser place.
If you truly want to become a person who demonstrates less selfishness and more caring qualities toward others, it boils down to one thing: Learning to prefer others in love above yourself. Romans 12:10 says this: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Likewise, 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
Now, maybe you’re stuck. Maybe you know you should demonstrate less selfishness and more kindness to people, but you’re so used to your old ways that you don’t even know where to start. I have a suggestion: It starts with a change of perspective, seeing people with the same love, grace, and compassion that Jesus extends to all of us. It starts with a decision to forfeit your need to be first, right, and entitled in order to put others first, let them be right, and to take a lesser place.
Why should I? you ask. Because this is what Jesus does every day for you. This is what Jesus does for all of us.
Compassion moves us to think of others before ourselves; compassion puts love into action; compassion takes us outside of our own selfish viewpoint and sets us in someone else’s shoes.
Here’s what we need more of: Showing compassion to our fellow man. According to dictionary.com, the definition of “compassion” is this: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Ok, so perhaps the barista doesn’t appear to be suffering when she makes a mistake, but how do you really know? Maybe she’s dealing with a difficult family concern that’s making it hard for her to concentrate. Maybe the slow driver was so preoccupied with finding his way to a cancer treatment appointment that he didn’t realize he was moving in snail mode. Maybe the checker at Costco isn’t very friendly today because her husband just lost his job and she can’t pay her rent. There’s a quote making the rounds on Facebook that says something like this: “You seriously don’t know what people are really going through, so just be nice.” I couldn’t agree more.
Compassion is the true game-changer. Compassion moves us to think of others before ourselves; compassion puts love into action; compassion takes us outside of our own selfish viewpoint and sets us in someone else’s shoes. Most importantly, if we want any shot of being like Jesus, compassion must take hold of us and actually lead us to put the needs of others above our own.
In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if you get around that slow car or not?
Here are just a few examples of how we’re told compassion moved Jesus—the God of the Universe—into action:
Matt. 14:14: When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matt. 20:33-34: They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
Mark 1:40-41: And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity [compassion], he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if you get around that slow car or not? Does it really matter if that person who arrived later than you gets served first? Is that thing your spouse said or did really worth a full-blown argument? In most cases, I’m sure the answer is a resounding “no.” If that’s true, then let’s not sweat the small stuff. The world would be a much kinder and better place if we all stopped sweating the small stuff.
Maybe it’s time we start opening our eyes to what’s going on with people around us rather than always thinking of ourselves first. Maybe we could even start a kind of revolution: a Compassion Revolution in this new year. I can’t think of anything nicer than to look back on 2018 and say, “This year, I turned my neighborhood, my workplace, my family, my school, and everything in between upside-down with just one thing: Compassion.”
I’m all in! Are you?
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