Innocence (August 19)


“It is part of the kindness of God that amid all the change there are things we can always count on. The unfailing regularity of the seasons and the reliability of nature; the glory of the stars, the innocence of the morning; the healing power of time and the sustaining power of hope; the heart’s yearning for love and the soul’s hunger for prayer; the endless quest for truth and the stubborn struggle for justice; the restless urge to create and the valiant will to overcome — these are some of the things we can count on. These are the things that hold in a slippery world” (Sidney Greenberg).

THAT WHICH IS INNOCENT IS FRESH AND UNTAINTED. It is unspoiled, not having been contaminated by evil or error or unworthiness. We ought to appreciate the things around us that come to us with such freshness, such as “the innocence of the morning.” And we ought to hang on to as much of our own innocence as we can.

To be innocent, we don’t have to be naive or gullible. As William Blake wrote, “Innocence dwells with wisdom, but never with ignorance.” The evidence suggests that Jesus of Nazareth was the most innocent adult who ever lived, but the evidence also suggests that he was nobody’s fool. So, contrary to the popular misconception, innocence and simple-mindedness are not the same thing. Consider three of the definitions of innocence in the American Heritage Dictionary.

(1) Uncorrupted by evil, malice, or wrongdoing. In this sense, innocence suggests purity. And frankly, in a world that is sadly degraded, one of our main challenges is to remain as unaffected as possible.

(2) Not guilty of a specific crime; legally blameless. When a person is innocent in this sense, it means that he stands before the law as one whose cause is just. In a dispute, to be innocent is to be “in the right.”

(3) Betraying or suggesting no deception or guile. Artlessness is the idea here. An innocent smile, for example, is one that is spontaneous. In these days of “technique,” this kind of innocence is refreshing.

Aren’t all three of these concepts worthy of admiration? Without a doubt, these kinds of innocence are more often found in children than in adults. But wouldn’t it improve our adult lives if we retained some of our childhood innocence as long as we live, rather than giving it all up in adolescence? In at least the three senses above, the more innocent we can keep ourselves, the better off we’ll be.

“The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart” (Mencius).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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