“When I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11
No matter what age we are, I believe there is an inner boy or girl living on the inside of us. Reminding us to not take things, including ourselves so seriously at times. Also reminding us to laugh, play and even cry when those emotions are what we feel at any given moment. Children are experts at simply being who they are, they typically aren’t pretentious, arrogant or prideful. They play hard, laugh hard and when they are sad, they usually cry unapologetically.
As a dad of four children (including one inherited by marriage) , I have been blessed to experience the joys and pains of raising kids. My children have lived life like any other happy kid does, fun-loving, loud, quick tempered at times, typically selfish, yet with hearts of gold.
So what happens when that inner child controls the outer adult, the way one thinks, resolves conflict and works out complicated life issues? The answer – things usually do not end well and additional problems may be incurred that one may find difficult to comprehend. No matter hard he/she searches, the answers seem to allude the inner child seeker, like having a preference for cotton candy versus broccoli.
As I reflect on my life and consider my own inner child and the moments I’ve allowed him to dominate how I resolved conflict or interacted with complicated adult affairs, I recall a man who made decisions based on fear and anger primarily. Rarely did I take adequate time to really consider another perspective. It was all about my feelings and no one could change how I felt. It was the adult version of stomping and kicking when I failed to get my way. Who does that? The boy or girl (inside) who still has yet to become a mature adult, that’s who.
So how does one begin to authentically grow up and not only take responsibility for their actions, but own their yesterday’s, tomorrow’s and the rest of their lives? For me it was a combination of a few things, but one thing in particular. And it was not simply going to a good counselor, praying to God for direction or reading good books, although I believe each one of those are essential for growth and authentic change.
My transformation began to take place when the stubborn, self-righteous and occasionally insensitive man I was (and still working on) began to die. No one in particular told me he needed to die, however my current circumstances at the time spoke volumes to need of his demise. It’s kind of like a moment when you look back on life and finally see, with your heart and your mind, the causalities of your actions lying all about you.
It’s not a moment where I said, “I need to start doing better.” It’s a moment where I realized that I needed to start over. Like reset my life on how I thought, responded and interacted with myself and those around me. My life as it was, was being dominated by the inner child who was still seeking approval, fought hard to be understood and looked forward to being coddled by others. Looks and sounds pretty much like a kid to me.
So one day I woke up not too many years ago, and began my journey of transformation. Again, not a mission to just do better with the tools I had, but to become a new person and utilize tools that I would most likely be unfamiliar with (like self-soothing) yet finally open to. As I set out on this journey of change, with pure intent, God placed some tremendous people along my path who not only introduced some of these new tools and skills, but displayed them in such a beautifully humanistic way that it became life changing to understand, and incredibly humbling to witness in action.
In no way am I perfect today, nor do I always get things right. That inner child will always live inside of me, however he will no longer control how I engage as a grown man, but he will help me to keep things simple, laugh out loud and not take myself so seriously at times. For him I am grateful.