Be As Little Children
I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Mathew [18:3]
These words attributed to Jesus are just one example of his observing the value children present to adults as role models.
Watch children at play, or doing their homework. Observe how present they are in everything they do. At some level, they appear to engage everything and everyone around them. Nothing escapes their notice. They react to other people, but by nature withhold condemnation, or at least do not dwell upon it. They tend to adapt their world view to include new information (non-egoic process), rather than modify new information to fit their world view (egoic process). To make sense of what they do not understand, they rely on their parents’ interpretation; trusting that it is correct, implicitly trusting that their parents were as perfectly educated as they themselves are being perfectly educated by their parents – that is, until they are teenagers and firmly entrenched in their own egos.
We sometimes provide our children with bad examples. Perhaps the worst is choosing to live with a double standard, in order to get along in a world as unreasonable in its demands as it is unforgiving in its judgements. Children learn by observation. Though we instruct them one way, pragmatism might demand that we act in another. The divergence between what we say as parents and what we do as individuals does not escape their notice. As parents, we must carefully consider what example we are providing to our children, because we can be sure they are going to learn by it.
The best teachers learn from their students, and this helps to make them better teachers. Strive to learn from your children the things which make you a better parent. This will benefit you both. If all Canadian parents did this, former PM Pierre Trudeau’s dream of the just society would easily become the Canadian reality in only a generation. Imagine, a land of unimpeded opportunity and happiness – for all of its citizens.
It is up to us.
A child is not afraid to be themselves; to show their own light and to acknowledge the light in others. This is because they are not distracted with concern over things which come naturally to them. Children do not judge, especially on the basis of outward appearance. Ego focuses on outward appearance; but the non-ego, by default, incorporates the entire package into its perception and understanding. A healthy, ego-bound adult might be uncomfortable with the situation of someone who is wheelchair-bound; rather than engage them in conversation, or at least wish them a ‘Good morning,’ they may act as though the person is not even there. A child, however, is just as likely to engage the disable person, as not; depending on what else is going on. The point is, a child would not ignore a person in a wheelchair, simply because they are in a wheelchair.
Who is more in touch with reality, the child who sees the whole person, or the adult who makes believe the person is not even there? And which of the two human-interaction scenarios do you suppose a soul obliged to live life in such a chronically debilitating situation would find the most engaging?
When my eldest daughter was nearly three, I took her shopping for clothes at Saan’s in Thunder Bay. While we were there, two young ladies in wheel chairs were brought in for shopping by their volunteer caretakers –God bless the volunteer caretakers. Daughter saw them, forgot all about shopping, and went straight over to them. The first words out of her little mouth were, “Why are you riding around in those?” I smiled at them (sheepishly). I watched them for signs if she might be a bother, but they were all smiles. My little girl was engaging two other souls and sharing so much joy with them.
What is most significant here, is that my child understood by default that the condition of these two young women in wheelchairs represented no barrier to connecting with them. The wheelchairs did not define them; the wheelchairs were a way for them to get around. She readily saw the person beneath the surface. I, the adult, did not – not until my daughter showed the way.
The wheelchair-bound want us to see them, not the chair. And that which is waiting in each of us to be seen and heard, is the triad of mind/soul/soul-body(aka the human spirit). Children naturally connect at the soul level until the ego begins to make gains and tip the balance. All children begin life fully mindful, with ego and non-ego in perfect balance.
For my part, these two women, and the joy they displayed during their interaction with my daughter inspired me to let go of the pain of a broken family and to get moving with my life again. It was never the same afterwards. My daughter accomplished all of this – without even having to try. She just did – because she was a child. As children, we do not judge the way we learn to later in life.
People who judge others, build a prison for themselves as they do. The act of judgement creates separation for the judger from the judged; but it also promotes a generalized isolation for the judger, which increases over time. Ironically, judgers (for they are people too) seek affirmation from and connection with like-minded people; people that are given to viewing other souls and the world, in the same way they do. Because judging (as opposed to discernment, which does not include an element of condemnation) is a feature of ego, judgers are pathologically addicted to their need for affirmation.
The “bars” we erect for our prison cells are the standards we develop and apply to the people around us. Our egoic over-focus on affirmation blinds us to the existence of bars other souls have erected and which differ from ours –for no two egos are exactly alike. But the bars our egos blind us to are as important as the ones that ego allows us to see. We cannot form viable relationships with only half a person; but ego develops such a complex ‘values system’ that ‘half’ is the best two egos will ever achieve. If we are the judgemental sort, we can only build relationships of convenience with other people.
The self-image ego projects to the world serves as armour to protect it from the judgement of others; but which is, in fact, a reflection of the judgement it passes upon others.
We serve ourselves much better by rejecting judgement in favour of discernment. To quote a line from the Prayer of St. Francis,
Lord, grant that I may seek rather
to understand than to be understood.
Seeking to understand is the default pursuit of the non-egoic mind. Seeking to be understood is the default pursuit of ego.
With respect to the judgement others put upon you, Steven Jobs once advised a graduating class:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. [i]
Steven Jobs is guilty of thinking as a child; worse, he is advising others, a graduating class no less, to do the same. He is advising us to put down our facades, allow others to see who we truly are, and realize our true potential. He wants us to recognize that, if others take exception to us, it is, in fact, their problem. So long as you are not tromping on someone else’s right to follow Steven’s advice, you are fine.
Remember: A child lives the only life a child knows – its own; not one chosen by ego. If you want to achieve joy, if you want to be reconciled with God, and with all that God has created, then be as you were when God first determined that you should come into the world, “Be as a child,” and judge not.
It bears repeating here that judgement is not discernment. Judgement includes a component of condemnation. Discernment does not involve the condemnation of others. In not condemning others, you remove a major impediment (the prison bars erected by the ego) to true connection with others.
And the better off we will all be.