This question was posed on the "larger families" blog that I read. I've been thinking about it today, trying to narrow it down. My strongest, daily (several times a day actually) prayer is that my children will come to know Jesus on a personal level, but I don't know if that can be described as a character trait - more a relationship. There is so much I want to instill into my children. Respect for others, work ethic and attention to detail top the list, as do honesty, contentment, love of learning and a joyful spirit.
However, I have to say that compassion does top the list as a trait I wish to instill into my children.
Why? Because all other positive character traits hinge on this one attribute.
A person with compassion will not lie, cheat or steal. To do so would be like committing those acts against self, for someone with true compassion.
A person with a truly compassionate heart will defend the weak - but they will also have a heart for the bullies and thugs of this world and seek true justice for the sake of those who abuse as much as for those they abuse. Imagine the impact on society if all had this attitude.
A compassionate heart seeks wisdom and knowledge in order to positively touch more lives and care better for those in their care.
We sometimes see compassion as this warm, fuzzy trait. An attribute to be painted in pastels, the domain of Mummies bandaging scraped knees.
In truth, compassion can be an intense heat - one that sets the world on fire.
Compassion motivated Ghandi to protest in a way the world had never seen.
Compassion spured on Mother Teresa to transform the way people saw the unloved.
Compassion pushed Florence Nightingale to defy the culture of her times and start a revolution in the care of the sick.
Amy Carmichael freed child prostitutes from the temples, David Livingston stood against slavery, William Booth feed and preached to the unwanted and unloved.... the list goes on, and all were motivated by compassion.
But perhaps the greatest reason I want my children to have compassion, is because from compassion comes love. And the only thing greater than being loved, is to love another.
This I learned from them.