Most of you who read my blog have probably heard of a little something called, "Fruit of the Spirit," I presume. If not, look it up in the Holy Bible in Galatians. But basically, for those of you who don't know/remember/want to click the link, the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. That is, when the Spirit (of God) lives within us and we are obedient to that Spirit, these qualities begin to pour out from us -- some days more than others -- and people are attracted to those qualities in us and hopefully start thinking, "Hey, I'd love to have patience like that..." which leads them a little further down the path opening themselves up to hearing from the brave ones among us as we shout from the hilltops about Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and all that.
And yes, I realize that was a terribly long run-on sentence. Deal with it.
But this post isn't about the Fruit of the Spirit. My title might have been a clue. I've recently been pondering the ways in which each of our children have started pouring out some other good qualities. I have been witness to these and I hope these good qualities will rub off on me more and more. I spend a lot of time trying to teach our children stuff, but usually, they end up teaching me about the really big, important lessons in life. I attribute this flip-flop occurrence to God's sense of humor.
So, for now (though I reserve the right to amend this list over the next 50 years or so), the Fruit of Our Children is compassion, creativity, energy, thoughtfulness and rose-sniffing (for lack of a more eloquent way to combine the phrase, "take time to smell the roses," into a single, descriptive word).
As you may have noticed by S's answers in my previous post and as we have known about her for some time, S has a lot of compassion and concern for others. She loves all animals and demonstrates this by being our dog's primary caretaker and giving of her personal time serving at a local animal shelter (though recently she's been out of the habit, she did enjoy doing that last autumn). Even more than animals, though, she seems to have a natural concern for other people -- their feelings, their rights, their needs, etc.
I realized more recently that the majority of our arguments that do not involve the ways in which she believes we do not treat her fairly or the way all her other friends apparently get treated by their parents, seem to stem from conversations about the way someone we know or someone in the news should (or should not) be treated. It's natural for teenagers to possess a fairly idealistic view of the world and she definitely does. But her compassion seems to come from a deeper place than just her teenagerism.
I'd love to see her compassion encompass our immediate family; although, I guess, in certain ways it does. When one of her siblings is being scolded, she remains quiet or retreats to her room. She doesn't like seeing them get into trouble. When I am sad or stressed, she takes the burden of my emotion on her own shoulders. However, all that being said, she is often the catalyst for some of my sadness and though she cares that I am hurting, she often chooses rebellion over self-control knowing full-well that her actions could cause her father and I some pain.
So while she hurts deeply when others are hurting, she is not above creating situations which will clearly cause pain for others (or even herself). I assume some of this will fade with maturity. I can only hope that her compassion does not fade with it.
I, myself, have struggled to feel real compassion for others in the past. I have been known to deal out the advice (more than once) to our kids to "be tough" or "just deal with it" when they are hurting. It's not the greatest advice, I'll admit. But I never wanted to raise sissified kids.
Now, we ended up with kids who need to learn a little something about being cared for after starting out with parents who did not have the skills to show compassion appropriately (or want to learn them). So I've had to learn when to soften my response and coddle them a little before patting them on the behind and sending them back out to play. Taking a moment to apply a Bandaid or to give a hug and dry some tears does wonders for strengthening bonds between our children and me.
Beyond our children, I've had to learn how to feel bad for other people in their difficult situations. As I write this, I recall some of my colder responses when I was young and immature (now I just struggle with immaturity ... not so much with being "young"). I can't believe how heartless people must have believed me to be. Just because a person's situation does not seem difficult in my opinion, does not mean it is not a struggle for that person. I do understand the concept of struggling, because I have had many struggles myself (i.e., understanding what it means to be compassionate).
So another person's struggle does not need to be something that is a struggle for me personally in order for me to show them some care and kindness and understanding that what they are going through may be very difficult for them. Most often, these people don't want my advice at all, strangely! They simply want a connection with another human being who has also had her own struggles in life and the hope that I can bring by sharing how I have survived.
For now, and in recognition and compassion for my readers' busy schedules, I will end here and continue in future posts about the other Fruit of Our Children. One is enough for tonight. I am certain I still have eons to go in becoming a more compassionate human being, but I do have S to thank for being a daily example for me.
On a lighter note, while sitting at the hospital waiting for a family member who was having lab work done today, Z, who was with me, suddenly asked, "Has anyone in our family tree ever had a heart attack?"
I thought about it and said, "I'm not sure, but probably. Why?"
He said, "Well, I don't like it when people die. Especially loved ones."
Seems I'm not the only one figuring out compassion.
Click here to visit the next post in the series.