I spent the day with a 7-year-old. Not my 7-year-old grandson but the neighbor’s grandchild. (“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”)
A day with a 7-year-old boy is more like a competition than a relationship. In everything he is faster and better than you are—even when he’s not. All day long you are “the rotten egg” for losing the race to the car, or tying your shoes more slowly. And he is the alpha dog to whom you submit for upbraiding about your batting swing. Everything you tell him you have done or accomplished—he has done it first, better, or more often. He dominates the conversation about his prowess in hockey and everything else under the sun—and is not particularly interested in anything you have to say about yourself.
But see, because you know the deal you are OK with this sustained humiliation. You do not grow bitter or engage in arguing or competing, nor do you put a lot of energy into proving your point. Why? Because this is a 7-year-old, and you know two things: One is that he is not really the Master of the Universe he thinks he is, and, two, your sense of self-worth resides in a place much higher than the opinion of someone who can’t even reach the water fountain unless you give him a boost.
This understanding of your average 7-year-old allows you to be a generous person. You magnanimously brush off sleights. When told your pitching stinks, you smile. When told that he reached first base before you tagged him, you cede the benefit of the doubt. When you (authentically) lose a foot race across a field, you are not crushed in spirit. In brief, you know the truth, and the truth sets you free.
Along the way, you make an interesting observation. You notice how much more pleasant life is when you do not engage a fellow human being in a game of one-upmanship. Matthew 5:39 says to turn the other cheek and not to resist an evil person. (I am not saying that a 7-year-old is an “evil person,” but if you imagined the behavior of your average 7-year-old in a 6-foot frame with facial hair, you would probably call it evil.)
So it dawned on me: If I am able not to be defensive and ego-driven with a 7-year-old, is there any reason why I can’t do the same with an adult? I believe the answer is “No.” Whether it is a child or a grownup, by God’s grace I am well able to employ the same biblical reasoning to any situation. Does it matter if this or that person thinks negatively about me? Not really. If he is wrong about me, then God knows the truth. If he is right about me, then he is right—and he does me a favor to point out my shortcoming. In any case, I am a child of God, and His irrevocable love and acceptance are quite enough.