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Ten Spiritual Lessons We Can Learn From Children
1. Holy Mud Puddle!
One of the highlights of my childhood was when the city decided to tear up an entire road just around the block and leave the construction site open so residents could still get to their homes - and then it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Hallelujah!
By the end of the second week, the street was such a glorious mess that I broke open my tiny piggy bank and begged my mom to take me to a local drug store that just happened to carry those wonderful yellow rubber rain boots you hardly ever see any more these days. She did - my mom was awesome - and as soon as we went home and I put them on, I ran around the corner and spent the next few hours utterly absorbed by the miracle of mud.
How high could I make it splash? How dirty could I get my corduroy pants? Just how waterproof were rubber boots anyway? Was mud-skating a real sport? Would dirt clogs stick to the wall outside the baker's shop? (They could. The neighbors weren't pleased.)
I remember that day as clearly as if it was yesterday, and it really was one of the best days of my life. I know exactly why it was so wonderful, too:
I didn't wonder how much the mud was worth. I didn't care that I looked like a swamp monster. I would've traded all my clothes and toys for another month of rain. At eight, I still knew what all children know: The greatest treasures in life aren't found in car lots, catalogs, or your wallet, but in opening your eyes to countless true miracles of God's creation.
2. Bills Are For Quacks
When you're three years old, a "mortgage" is a mythological beast only adults can see, "car insurance" refers to the elf guarding the big metal thing that drives to you Toys"R"Us, and "bills" are what ducks use to eat.
I encourage you to adopt the very same beliefs at least once a week. Pick a day to forget all about your bills and other financial responsibilities, and just enjoy being healthy and alive. You can always deal with "money" the next day. Besides, the tree it apparently does NOT grow on is far more interesting - and full of bugs!
3. Look What I Drew!
Children don't draw to get into art galleries or impress a professor - they draw because they enjoy it, and because they get so lost in their artwork that they become part of it, if only for a short while. As adults, we should endeavor to do the same with our own art projects. Indulge your creative side, but don't focus so much on perfection. Trying to match Michelangelo will only frustrate you, but if you draw, paint, or write at the speed of thought, you'll find a world of wonders waiting right within your own mind.
4. Cooties, Cooties, Cooties!
Just like animals, children have an amazing internal radar for bastardy. If a child doesn't want to climb into Uncle Ben's lap for pictures, flies into a hissy fit at the mention of hugging Aunt Sarah, or refuses to say hello to the mailman, chances are there's a good reason, and no amount of sweet-talk will convince him or her otherwise. Similarly, children aren't at ease around heavy drinkers, drug addicts, people who are dishonest, or people whose temper hangs by a very thin thread - again, with good reason.
We should practice the same caution as adults. Forget social niceties. If someone makes you acutely uncomfortable, or you sense a serious problem, listen to your intuition and avoid that person at all costs. That weird tingle in your spine is trying to alert you to spiritual cooties. You would be wise to listen.
5. We Can Bawl If We Want To
Adults don't cry nearly often enough. It's not that we don't want to, but that we've been taught to repress our emotions so we don't make a spectacle of ourselves or come across as weak or overly sensitive. Children don't care. If they're unhappy or moved by something, they cry - and they're wise to do so. Why hide who you truly are? When did vulnerability become a negative character trait? How long can someone quash the urge to cry before they actually lose their marbles?
Learn from your children, and let those tears flow. Crying flushes toxins and stress hormones from your body, soothes your soul, and allows you to deal with your feelings on the spot. Tears are a spiritual release valve - using them will help ensure that the pressure inside never becomes more than you can manage.
6. God Doesn't Care What I Wear To Church
Ask a child what they want to wear to church and they'll probably pick anything BUT their Sunday best. After all, why would God care if they wore green pants, a red shirt, and blue shoes, as long as they show up? We're all God's children, so I'm sure that, as a father, he is far more interested in seeing us, talking to us, and loving us than how we dress when we visit.
Besides, who says God lives in a church? Children look for, and often see, God in everything. Because of this, they know it's impossible to dress for the occasion (communion with the divine) every time - the occasion isn't just on Sundays at ten, but here and now, in this very moment, whether they're wearing dresses or pajamas.
7. Hugs Can Too Heal All Wounds
When a kid wipes out on the playground, other kids don't try to console her with cliches and platitudes, but with hugs. Their response makes perfect sense. Words can comfort, but they aren't always powerful enough to eliminate the fear and the pain associated with taking a fall. An embrace, however, can communicate the love and healing energy required to mend a bruised finger - or a wounded heart.
8. My Guardian Angel Wants More Meatloaf
I could write for miles about the abilities we lose as we grow up and are essentially programmed to forget all about the memories and insights we brought with us from the spirit realm, but I'll keep it brief: Children under the age of five can see, hear, feel, and do things most adults can't begin to fathom. If your toddler is sitting at the dinner table and refuses to eat unless you serve his imaginary friend meatloaf, too, chances are there IS someone else in the kitchen - you just can't see him or her because you've forgotten how to.
Children don't question what they see or perceive. They also don't question what their souls tell them to be true: The white glow around Grandma isn't just the glare from the window, but a guardian angel. The dog isn't just barking at thin air, but talking to a real, palpable presence. The beggar in front of the grocery store isn't just a homeless person, but a spirit sent to test our compassion.
Take your cue from your kids. Try not to dismiss everything you can't explain via science, because science only goes so far - indeed, it covers only a tiny fraction of the universe. Kids know this. And that's why their worlds are filled with wonder and mystery beyond what they can perceive with their five senses.
9. I'm Going To Marry A Prince
Little girls want to marry princes - strong, loyal, loving, competent men who can beat up monsters, chase away all the bad things in the world, and make them exuberantly happy until they are old and crusty and die - not villains. Little boys want to marry princesses - women who are loving, true, sweet, and want to raise babies and bake cakes - not evil witches. Likewise, little girls don't want to grow up to BE evil witches, just as little boys don't want to grow up to BE evil villains.
Don't settle for or be less just because you're an adult. Hold yourself, as well as the person you choose to spend your life with, to the highest moral, ethical, and spiritual standards. No one is perfect, of course, but serious character flaws are just as unacceptable now as they were when you were seven.
10. I'm Laughing Because It's Funny
Never let the world destroy your sense of humor or happiness. Children smile all the time, with or without immediate reason. Children laugh all the time, too, whether there's something obviously funny going on or not. My own kids have taught me more about the hilarity of random moments than all the comedians in the world combined.
So it's simple. Have faith like a child, hope like a child, see like a child, and trust in God and good like a child - like Jodie Foster's character in the movie "Nell" - and your smiles will always come naturally.