A Lesson in Compassion

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One of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children is kindness and compassion for all living things, no matter how big or small.

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This topic is on my mind because I was disturbed to read this morning of yet another local case of animal cruelty. How does a person exist, and sleep at night, who can commit such cruel acts against an innocent and defenseless animal?

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I find it difficult to believe a child raised to respect and empathise with the feelings of all creatures can grow up into someone who can treat an animal with cruelty. My dad, in particular, taught us how to care for all living things. We grew up with pets, as many do, but it was more than that. He taught by example. He not only loved that little spider that he picked up and brought outdoors, he wished it well.

I wish every small child could experience that kind of lesson.

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Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar. ~ Bradley Miller

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Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion, to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ~ Albert Einstein

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It is widely believed that empathy training for children can prevent violence, against animals and human beings. What are you doing to teach children compassion?

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35 thoughts on “A Lesson in Compassion

  1. Animals & humans are living in the same home (earth). We are family to each other. So it becomes our foremost priority to spread love, Kindness & Compassion to all living creatures.

  2. Jennifer I totally agree, my hubby will bring something out of the garden just to show the kids how special life and nature truly are. I see them get mad when some kid squashes a bug or a spider at school. I think we are on the right path and I love this post.

  3. Slightly off track. I remember when I was about 10 a friend of mine was teasing a disabled child who lived next door and I stood by saying nothing. When my mother found out she growled at me despite my protests that I had not done anything wrong. Her words are imprinted in my brain.
    “If you hear someone saying cruel things to someone less fortunate and you do not stand up for that person, it is as if you spoke those cruel words yourself.” That was my lesson in compassion from my mother and I have tried ever since to make up for that one time when I failed to show compassion to that neighborhood child.

  4. I so loved reading this post Jennifer. It is something so very close to my heart. I remember feeling this deep inside me when I used to see the old western films on TV. I always remember feeling much sadder for the horses that were injured or killed than for the people. Of course I have since learned to balance that feeling a little more and yet sometimes I can still feel it… I have learned too, kver the years rhat compassion for ourselves is important too. I actually wrote a poem about this once as I was watching the tiniest spider crawl across my hand; it kept stopping for a rest then carrying on its long journey up my arm 😊

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I too had more concern as a child for the horses, or any animal for that matter!
      Compassion for ourselves is so essential, I’m glad you mentioned it. However, I think it deserves its own post. Perhaps a good idea for future blogging? ;)

  5. That is so sad to hear about another animal cruelty case. They pop up frequently in the United States as well, and it’s downright disgusting. Your post brought a smile to my face because my Dad was also the figure in my family who taught me about compassion towards small + large animals. I don’t know how anyone could ever hurt an animal knowingly… they must be heartless.

    • Caitlin, what many don’t realize is that we only hear of the cases the media reports on; what about all the cases that are never discovered? Heartless is right.

      Sounds like we both had loving fathers. :)

  6. I have more trouble with animal cruelty than human. I still have an image haunting my mind–a darling little dog curled up at his owners doorstep, outside, covered in snow and ice. I wish I’d never seen that picture. Or that I could rescue that dog.

  7. Jennifer, that quote about the caterpillar nails it and so does your post. Babies, the elderly, and animals all especially need our care and respect. How we treat the vulnerable says a whole lot about our hearts.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  8. Jennifer, I love this post. I’m surprised (but pleased) to see so many of the commenters admitting that they often feel more sadness over animal pain and death than human. Me too. I’ve always wondered if that meant there was something “wrong” with me, because I know the majority of our species thinks human pain and suffering is more important than that of animals. Thanks for this message.

    • Thank you, Kim. My husband and I are the same, so I guess like attracts like. I don’t think there is anything wrong feeling that way, rather it shows a special compassion for creatures of lesser intelligence and who need our help and stewardship.
      Thanks also for following me! I love your blog. Drop by again soon.

  9. Its difficult to respond to these stories: the disparity in the way different people treat animals is so marked. I have ridden in cars, for example, with drivers who would rather crash than collide with an animal, and unfortunately with a few who would deliberately aim at animals that crossed their path. Generalisations rarely satisfy, but I think it is broadly true that ‘countrymen’ have a much less sympathetic view than townspeople. It may be something to do with the greater immediacy that comes with shooting your dinner in the morning and cooking it at night. It is especially hard, too, for farmers I think: they have to be hard-headed and keep a distance between themselves and their ‘beasts’.

  10. If I may, I’ll just add (because I pressed the wrong key and sent the above to press before I intended) that unnecessary cruelty is never excusable. Personally, I’m oozing with sentiment when it comes to animals, but I would implore anybody who’s read this far not to just keep your love for the cute ones. There are ugly creatures out there with beautiful souls!

    • Frederick, I completely agree that we should treat all creatures with dignity, not only the “cute” ones. And when I say dignity, I also mean for farmers, hunters, and abattoirs etc. to kill animals as humanely as possible.

      I also agree that many countrymen think differently than city folk, and understandably so. But never should unnecessary cruelty or pain come into play, anywhere. I often think of the aboriginals who gave their utmost thanks and reverence to the animals they killed for food. I think we all could learn from that.

      Thanks so much for your opinion on the topic. :)

  11. Hi Jennifer, you don’t know me I am new to wordpress. I am also new to your page. However, I have to say I am in total agreement with you on this issue. Kids should be taught at a young age not to abuse anything, not just animals. I have seen kids abuse each other, including my own, it took a while to teach them to be caring and compassionate. But, they were taught, they made mistakes, and they learned.
    I know some people who are abusive and or cruel to animals. My question is, why get an animal if you are going to be abusive or cruel to them?

    • Hi there, thanks for taking the time to comment. I know, I don’t understand a person who owns an animal and abuses it. Or a parent who abuses a child, or a spouse abusing a spouse. Someone who can do that has to be deeply unhappy.

      I think compassion for other living beings is one of the most important lessons you can teach a child.

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