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Compassion Unit Study

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By Beverly S. Krueger

If you have never used a character quality as a topic for a unit study, you may think doing so will cause you to neglect academics. Although science or social studies may not play as important a role in a character study unit, they can find a place. The goal of a character quality unit is not to impart new academic knowledge, but to learn more about God's ways and to search our lives and our family life for ways we can develop a particular character quality more fully. While working towards that goal all of the various academic skills, reading, writing, thinking, organizing, will be used.

Any time you choose a character quality to study you will need to bring that study into focus for your family. I'm using the quality of compassion to demonstrate the many facets that a character quality study can have. In the New Open Bible, compassion is defined as suffering with another. That was not what I expected. I had a working definition of compassion in my own mind that included helping others or feeling sorry for others in the midst of trouble, but the thought of suffering with another was new to me. I realized I needed to do some study of compassion on my own before I would be prepared to work on this area with my children.

I went to the Bible to read what it had to say about compassion and began meditating on some of those verses. If you have Greek or Hebrew Bible study tools you can also use them to learn how the various words translated as compassion are defined in those languages. You can write your own definition of compassion using the scriptures you have studied.

Once you have spent time meditating on a particular quality, what it is, how God expresses that quality and how that quality impacted the lives of Bible figures, you can focus on asking God what He would have you and your family learn through this study. Once you begin your study you will often find that God brings out more specific issues for your family to consider, but it is good to have a starting place as you begin your study.

Character qualities are best understood by their expression. As you read scripture with your children begin a list of ways you find this quality expressed by God and others in the Bible. Biographies are a great way to focus on how one person expressed a particular quality through their life. The life of Amy Carmichael offers many examples of compassion expressed. You can write short stories about people demonstrating one of the aspects of compassion you have discovered.

Eventually you will want to focus on how this quality is or is not expressed in your family. In what areas are you succeeding in demonstrating compassion and in what areas are you failing? As the Holy Spirit brings conviction, ask Him to show you what your family can specifically do to instill within yourselves greater compassion. Perhaps you will be called to help someone for whom you cannot easily feel compassion. Often by being obedient to God's call we develop compassion, because to truly help someone else we must put ourselves in their place or see a situation with their eyes. In fact, when we feel compassion for someone else, we suffer with them. What we began to do out of obedience, we continue to do from compassion.

I've included my notes on compassion to give you an idea of what a character quality study can include. They are by no means complete since they are an expression of compassion seen through the filter of my life. While we may choose to study compassion intensely for a period of time, as God continues to reveal more and more of his own character to us, we will gain a deeper and richer understanding of compassion throughout our lifetime.

Compassion Resource Listing - questions, scripture references, expressions of compassion, books, websites

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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