32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
I try not to give unsolicited suggestions about how other people should raise their children. But today I’m going to make an exception. Here’s my advice: “Teach your kids to be kind to everyone — but especially to other kids.”
Lately, every time I pick up a newspaper I read accounts of the aftermath of the unkindness of young people. Elementary school students are being treated for depression because of the aggression they’ve faced from classmates. Teens have taken their own lives because of the way that they’ve been treated at school and online.
The media tends to put other names on the problem — labels like “bullying” or “cyber-bullying”—but in the long run it all boils down to a lack of Christian kindness. We all need to be kind to everybody because everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Whenever there’s a school shooting, there’s always someone on the news saying that these things never would happen if we still had prayer in the schools. I’m not sure I agree with that. First of all, as long as there is algebra (and final exams) there will always be prayer in the schools. There’s nothing in the world that can stop any of us from praying to God at any time because He knows our hearts and our minds.
It’s true that a disaffected student who is well-on-his-way to becoming a “school shooter” might have a change of heart if he saw a group of students having a public prayer meeting. But, truth be told, there’s an effective tactic that’s less dramatic and controversial. What if some students went to the boy who’s all alone in the lunchroom and said, “Hey, why don’t you come to our table? No pressure, but we’d love to have you. And if you don’t want to today, well, the offer still stands….”
I’m not sure how we actually go about teaching our children to be kind to others. We probably need to talk about it with them a lot; I’m sure a lot of unkindness is really just thoughtlessness — we just didn’t stop to think about the feelings of others. (It doesn’t help that we spend so much of our time “inside our heads,” using tech devices rather than talking face-to-face with real people.)
But I suspect our most effective lessons will come from what we model in the way we live. Did you hear about all the Easter egg hunts that were canceled this year because of the parents who were pushing and shoving as they snatched up the eggs? Children may not always believe what we say, but they never doubt our actions — whether they be good or evil.
Also, we need to pray that our loving Heavenly Father will work in us (and them) to help us be more kind. Kindness isn’t something we can perfect on our own — but God can change us and perfect us by His grace.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 26 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he has a desk-job at a public school and teaches Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 21) and Seth (age 17) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the children still hunt Easter eggs, without being tackled by any exuberant parents.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.