Think you’re Grown-Up?
Uncovering the not-so-hidden child in us all
As university students, thinking ourselves to have put childish ways behind us is to be expected. But perhaps we share more in common than we think. (Anyone who has sacrificed sleep to achieve ends in board games knows my meaning!) Now, there is little wrong with childlike puzzles and recreations; but trouble occurs if we think ourselves to have outgrown childlike values. I, for one, envy the particularly childish ability to angrily swear off talking to someone, only to restart laughing and playing with them the same day.
For these times, we may apply some sound advice from George Macdonald’s fairytale, The Princess and the Goblin: “We are all very anxious to be understood, and it is hard not to be,” said Grandmother Irene to the young Princess. “But there is one thing much more necessary; To understand other people.”
We are very eager to be heard. Children especially, often demonstrate this tendency to a fault: they naively over exalt their wants over what is best. Does anyone remember being told by their parents to consider the feelings of others? But, though we have usually outgrown shoving in line, we still show ourselves too desperate to get a point across. (Take the choice words we use for others who disagree with our opinions on such-and-such a matter.) It seems to me as though, dealing with a relativistic world, we take ourselves a little too seriously and ‘unlearn’ the virtues exhibited in our earliest teachings: not judging by appearances; walking in someone’s shoes; and that best policy, honesty.
Now children are famous for irking those around them (sometimes throwing snowballs, or less friendly objects like dirt or punches) who mean the world to them. If you have a younger sibling from whom you received periodical beatings, then you know what I mean! This took place for no reason, other than their knowledge that no matter how much misplaced frustration they unload on you, you wouldn’t think (twice) of abandoning them.
And I am not yet convinced that, as adolescents or adults, we outgrow this form of torment. Take the best friend who cannot cease bragging about her latest “boyfriend”, who may be willing to trade him in an instant for one affirming word from you. Men will smooth over each other’s insecurities by making jokes pointed at them, sometimes more than prescribed. But, as is unfortunately the case, many of us do outgrow our tolerance for bearing one another’s burdens – and one malign word can drive away a companion for good.
Some other experiences I’ve had evoke playground days, when contests for the last laugh sometimes become the last shove. One unfortunate afternoon a while ago I spent with a close friend. After some strain on our friendship, the dam finally burst, and we were swept up in an argument until the tears flowed on both sides. Then back in my room, something like a learned feeling – rebuke – stirred. How was I supposed to feel; proud, that I could push back hard enough to knock her down and make her cry? My inner parent bade me desist from word games, until I was ready to apologize.
The proverb rings true, that children have their adults to point out their screw-ups; but when adults screw up, there is no one to tell them so. But, far from suggesting we retreat back to the nest until we’ve fully weaned off our parents’ or guardians’ moral guidance (if we ever lived so long we could), perhaps we could benefit from ‘re-learning’. Proverbs 12 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.”