Wednesday at the playground with my grandchildren I realized that the same things that work with kids can work with adults. And they don't have to be any harder with adults than with kids.
The play structure was a wood-framed affair that had a ramp like a gangplank at about a 45-degree angle reaching from sandbox to clubhouse. A thick rope with intermittent knots straddled the plank for hoisting oneself up to the house. Nassia, rather inelegantly, made her way up and then said to me in triumph: "I'm a good climber." I noticed that I did not flinch or think less of her for that little display of pride, nor did I bother to adjust her assessment of accomplishment. I loved her just as much as before.
Shortly afterward, I grabbed the rope and stood on the ramp and swung from side to side a bit, and didn't particularly have the goal of reaching the claustrophobic clubhouse. Nassia looked at me and said, "Mimi, you're not a good climber." I noticed, again, that I did not take umbrage in the least with this little negative commentary on my athletic abilities. I did not try to defend myself; I did not bother to explain that I was not trying to climb the ramp, and that if I had wanted to, I jolly well could have. I just smiled. And I loved Nassia just as much as before.
Later Niko threw me the tennis ball and I missed, which he was happy to crow. It did not hurt my self-esteem in the least. Nor did I find it necessary to bring to his attention that he had thrown it wildly out of reach.
As this was going on, I thought how wonderful it would be if our adult-to-adult relationships were this easy, this free of the dark gods of the blood: defensiveness, pride, malice, fear of man, vainglory, morbid neediness, threat to self-image. And then it occurred to me that they can be. I analyzed that the reason I don't get bent out of shape when Nassia boasts or when Nassia says something unkind is because I know the truth. There is a wisdom differential between a 4-year-old and a 57-year-old that renders the opinion of the 4-year-old non-threatening. I know what the real deal is.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened," and proceeds to explain that his good "Father will give good things to those who ask him" (Matthew 7:7-11).
And then immediately He adds:
"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (v.12).
That is to say, since your fundamental life needs are all taken care of---your need for love, for acceptance, for meaning, for food, for clothing---then out of that position of strength and security, go out and do good to others freely. No one's pride, no one's insult, no one's issues, can damage you. You know what the real deal is.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.