“There is small chance of truth at the goal where there is not childlike humility at the starting post” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
WITHOUT A CERTAIN DEGREE OF CHILDLIKENESS, WE CUT OURSELVES OFF FROM MUCH OF LIFE’S GOODNESS AND WONDER. Although maturity is a good thing in general (and we certainly wouldn’t want to avoid it), it often picks up some unhelpful traveling companions, such as cynicism, skepticism, and pride. These things can interfere with the quality of our lives, often tragically, and the only way to avoid them is to hang on to a healthy measure of childlikeness. Our children can teach us how to be better adults!
Trust. Although the natural trustfulness of children needs to be balanced by the wisdom that comes in later years, it can’t be denied that most of us adults would be improved by a more childlike openness to the benefit of trust. Whatever losses there may be, there’s still more to be gained from trust than there is from mistrust.
Openness. Children are beautifully receptive. They’re open enough to give new things a chance. And as a result of their openness, children experience serendipity more often: the delightful habit of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident. The openness of the childlike spirit is the door to important kinds of learning.
Humility. Above all, it’s the humble tendency of the child that we should seek to regain. Granted, not all children are humble and self-will is definitely a thing that has to be outgrown, but even so, full-blown pride is an adult trait, and maybe our worst one. When we see it taking hold, we need to go back and remember our childhood.
Isn’t it obvious, then, that there are some wholesome ways in which we might simplify ourselves? When the clarity of our hearts, as we knew them in childhood, begins to get complicated by grown-up suspicions and hypocrisies, we might cut out the clutter. The vanity that has attached itself to our characters could be trimmed away. Like it or not, the progress we need to make sometimes requires going back in time. Gaining good things often means recovering them.
Thy home is with the humble, Lord!
The simple are thy rest;
Thy lodging is in childlike hearts;
Thou makest there thy rest.
(Frederick William Faber)