Teaching our children to be compassionate makes them happier and healthier.

At SCBC, we hold a foundational viewpoint (i.e. a categorical imperative) that ‘optimal excellence is God’s love in action.’ 

Our school motto is rigorous minds and compassionate hearts. This was drawn from an essay written by Martin Luther King Jnr called: ‘A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.’ King drew his inspiration from the Bible verse: ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’ (Matthew 10:16)

Why Compassion?

I have been teaching a Mandarin Class with the direct language assistance of Ms Chow. Learning a language is not easy for most, especially if you are in your 50’s! No amount of economic and global sensibility makes it easier. China may well be an emerging economic superpower, and Mandarin may well be the second most common language spoken in Australia, but … that doesn’t change the fact that it is a tough gig for an Aussie when learning to communicate in a non-native tongue.

To help align Mandarin with our ‘here & now’ reality, I invited my students to write ‘compassion’ in Mandarin. As they wrote, we had a brief conversation about what compassion means. I quickly realised many in my class were uncertain. Sharing at relevant, timely moments is what we do as educators. I did. They realised compassion is not just a feeling, and not just something that you do.

That class experience made me feel that I may have helped one of the young people I care about have a better insight to becoming a happier person. It’s lead me to read more. I’ll share with you what I learnt.

Happiness for young people and indicators of health

Research with 286, 14-16 year old adolescents in 2015 found the following:

After reviewing some studies analysing adolescent happiness, several strategies are noted that promote happy feelings. These include: (1) remain active and physically occupied (a healthy mind in a healthy body); (2) share activities with other people and do things for others; (3) focus on the present, preventing past experiences or concerns about the future from distorting the “here and now,” because happiness is an internal emotional state that can only be felt in the present; (4) set small goals to be sequenced toward a larger goal; (5) think positive, have positive thoughts; (6) set feasible goals; (7) be capable of enjoying pleasant things, paying close attention and slowly savouring the things that cause pleasure; (8) learn to give oneself small daily rewards; (9) accept what cannot be changed, learning to forgive and be reconciled with the past, no matter how negative it may have been; (10) practice self-compassion to forgive oneself and feel thankful to others, because one’s own happiness is related to that of others; (11) be aware of the positive aspects of life and feel thankful for them; (12) learn new things and cultivate appreciation of beauty and excellence (a picture, a sculpture, a musical melody, a sunset…); (13) coherence between cognition, emotion, and behaviour (what one thinks, feels, and does); (14) develop resilience or the capacity to cope with adversity and overcome it without letting it destroy or hurt one; and (15) love and be loved, have feelings of love for others and feel loved by the people around one.’


When looking at this list, I sensed many of them collectively reflect the benefit of compassion. By definition, compassion is a ‘sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others’. I found an interesting analysis of ‘compassion’ on a Stanford University website which uses the Parable of the Good Samaritan (found in Luke 10) as their focus of their investigation. (See The bottom line was that being ‘religious’ (i.e. piously legalistic)  and/or academic about compassion doesn’t mean a person will become more compassionate. My sense is that it’s best taught (‘caught’) when simply modelled by someone who is simply being compassionate.

Teaching children to have a tender heart is part of the answer. Showing them as well is more likely to help them become a compassionate person. Credible research suggests that if they become more compassionate, they will become a happier person.

In a nutshell

Compassion is an example of God’s love in action. With you, we are committed to helping your children understand and experience compassion. They will be more likely to enjoy sustainable, health-affirming happiness.

Des Mitchell