Friday, March 1, 2013

Lessons from Little Children

Then he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. - Matthew 18:3

Christ was wise to point to little children, those who are under the age of 5 or so years old, as examples of what we should be like.  No, I'm not talking about running around the house smacking yourself on the head with a squeaky toy, or grabbing everything in sight and claiming "MINE! MINE!".  Those are childish things, not child-like behaviors.  Here are the things we can learn from little children:

1. Failure is a temporary setback, not a permanent defeat.


Watch a little child learn to do anything.  Everything is a struggle for them - rolling over, crawling, walking, talking.  They fail over and over and over again.  Sometimes they take some pretty hard falls and will end up crying over them in the process.  However, they never give up.  They keep trying, keep working to master the basic skills of being human one at a time.

In our spiritual journey, we must be like little children. We have many sins to overcome, and each one will be difficult, but we must not give up on ourselves no matter how many failures or setbacks we encounter.  We must trust in that little voice that tells us we can do it and keep trying.  We must hold on to our faith and focus on our vision.

2. Gratitude makes the world a pretty wonderful place


Little children take absolutely nothing for granted. They are amazed by the movement of their hand, in awe of dandelions, and will stop to watch ants crawl for hours on end if they are allowed to.  Everything is new and fresh and everything is magical.  We adults take our world for granted.  We take for granted that the sun will continue to shine, that rain will continue to fall, that ants will continue to crawl.  We take them for granted to the point where we don't even notice their existence anymore unless they present a burden of some kind to us.

When we notice that we are grumbling and complaining a lot, when we get depressed or down, this is because we have lost sight of our blessings. We are suffering from a case of ingratitude and need to revisit our perspective.  We do live in an imperfect but truly marvelous world.  It's a beautiful place with so many wonderful things in it, and gratitude helps us to rediscover that wonder and recapture the magic.

3. Make no assumptions


Children are the ultimate scientists.  They make no assumptions about what things are or about what their purpose is.  They test them, poke them, prod them, pull on them, taste them, smell them, and explore them. They know that there is much to learn and they do not assume they know everything there is to know about it. 

Children are often said to bounce back from terrible events in their lives because they don't sit down and weep and wail over them for long.  This is actually a mistake.  It isn't that children bounce back, it is that they absorb the event into their learning.  They make no assumptions about how life is supposed to be and so when they encounter an event, even a painful one or a harmful one, they simply absorb it into their reality as part of their catalogue of, "This is how life is".  

We, as adults, however start with the assumption that we know things. Because we begin with an assumption of knowledge, we close our minds to other possibilities.  What if what we know is only part of - and not the fullness of - truth? What if we haven't fully explored the concept and there's still more parts to it? If we are to behave like little children, we must assume that we do not know everything about a situation and encounter it as someone seeking to learn.

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