This fall, I read Simply Tuesday and was struck by this thought that Emily P. Freeman shares about how our souls are not much different those of children:
Children are endlessly messy. But the beauty is that they are generally unaware of how messy they are. They aren’t embarrassed over it, they don’t try to hide it, and they certainly don’t let their mess get in the way of moving toward others…our souls are surprisingly young. We don’t want to go first, be left out, be put down, ignored, or forgotten. We don’t want to be wrong, embarrassed, or criticized. We can all relate to those fears, and so can every first grader I know. You can’t make a soul grow up. Our souls are young and always will be.
In spending an enormous amount of time with children as a first grade teacher, I continue to make this same connection. I correct, discipline, guide, and facilitate arguments, conflict, outbursts, and meltdowns several times an hour each day.
Then, I come home and live my “adult” life, where there’s a presumption that people don’t act like children. Adults act with reason, fairness, and judgment. We’re not impulsive, and we certainly don’t cry over nothing.
Except, the more I see children in their natural state, the more I am connecting and empathizing with the one-hundred-thirtieth time the same student has chosen to make the same mistake she made yesterday just because she got mad.
Adults are not much different. We are just more sly. We cover our young souls with fancy words, dinner appointments, and logical reasoning as to how we can justify the impulsive remark we just made towards someone we love. We reason through why we don’t want to “play” with certain people, making it appear that we have no place in the blame and it’s just because they started it.
We run away, we hide, and we ignore the things that should be important, but that we don’t really want to confront or deal with.
Children do this in the most obvious, sometimes humorous ways. But, I’m coming to see how when I dig beneath the surface of my actions and words, my intentions, desires, and needs are not that unlike those of my 6 and 7 year old friends that I spend most of my day correcting and guiding.
At the end of the day, I share the same frustration when things don’t go my way, the same betrayal and loneliness when it seems like everyone has somebody to play with but me and my friend who said she would play doesn’t want to anymore, the same disappointment and despair when others’ work is praised and successful but I just can’t seem to even get started, the same doubt in my worth because everyone else seems to be seen and noticed but I’m just in the background with no attention on me, the same shame & stubbornness when I’ve been caught in my mistake but it’s just too hard to admit it so I might as well just try to hide it our justify it or pretend I have no clue what you are talking about.
Our souls are young and messy, and there is nothing wrong with that. I want to lean into this freedom to accept the broken nature of humanity, valuing the mess that we all bring and the beauty that can come from such authenticity.
Let’s have our adult selves embrace more of this, without hesitation to show how our souls really are:
featuring: baby Meagan shamelessly fun and silly and of course, a mess.