A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the stairs with my grandson. He is a cute little blond fellow of about 2 years old just learning to talk in full sentences. I was yawning and said, “Seth, I am so tired.”

He said, “Grandma, go to sleep.”

“Who will watch you if I go to sleep?”

“I will watch myself,” he replied.

“What will you do if you get in trouble?” I smiled.


He didn’t skip a beat. “I will put myself in time-out.”

That kid knew all the answers. He assessed the situation and was ready to help. Children are so guileless and unassuming. They don’t weigh words and predict what will happen if choices are made; they don’t plan out their responses to please the crowd.

They just act from innocence and tender feelings. I think that Christ must have been referring to that quality in children when He compared children to the Kingdom of Heaven.

I have often wondered how to develop that quality of spontaneity and childlike innocence at my age. I am way too guarded and careful with my words and acts of kindness. I have this little guy on my shoulder that says, “What will other people think if you do that?”

Perhaps as we grow into adults we lose our spontaneity because we look back on times when we have been corrected and judged harshly. We allow others to shape our self-esteem. Richard Landvatter said, “I am not what I think; I am not what you think; I am what I think you think I am.”

That is so true. As adults, we begin to live in a world of “woulds,” “shoulds” and “buts.” “I would do that, but someone will tell me I’m out of line. I should do that, but I won’t because someone will say I am trying to show off.” We weigh and guard our response because we fear what others will think.

Not only do we, as adults, guard ourselves because of fear; we send out the very thing we dread. We gossip and back-bite. We chatter endlessly about the failings of others; in consequence, we expect others might say the same things about us. Hence we fear spontaneity. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Jesus has a solution, as He always does. (Matthew 7:1-5)

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Jesus was talking about the law of the harvest. Whatever you plant is going to grow. Whatever you send out is going to come back. Whatever you do, you can expect the same treatment from somebody else. We pick up one end of the stick, and we can’t avoid picking up the other end as well.

The idea of the beam and the mote has always puzzled me. I used to think a mote was a small tiny piece of wood and a beam was something that you put on the roof of a house to stabilize it. A mote is understandable.

Everyone has had a tiny chip of wood or dirt in the eye. But a beam? Now that is different; having one of those in your eye would certainly obscure the vision, but how would one get one in the eye in the first place? I always thought it was such an odd comparison, but I accepted it at face value. Jesus said it. It is true.

Last Sunday, a teacher gave me a new perspective. She said, “A beam can also mean a beam of light, as in sunlight.” Now that made sense. It is difficult to see something in another’s eye if you have the sun in your eyes. As I thought about it, I realized that is a perfect comparison.

If you want to take something out of someone’s eye, you need light in his or her eye so you can see clearly where the problem is. You need to have the light behind you so you are not blinded. How does this relate to our lives?

It is Stephen Covey’s parable of the eye doctor and the glasses. (Spiritual Roots of Human Relations). Covey tells a story of a patient with an eye problem coming to an optometrist. The doctor, without testing or looking at the patient says, “Here are my glasses. Try them; they have worked for me for many years.”

Often we try to solve the other person’s problems by giving them our solutions. Our advice is about as good as the optometrist’s old glasses. We must first understand the problem before we can help to solve it.

In other words, we must get the beam of light out of our own eye by putting the other person’s problem in the limelight. We must first take time to understand from the person’s perspective before we can help them solve their problem.

The apostles of Jesus at the Last Supper were a good example of how to judge and get the beam out of your eye before you judge another. (Matthew 26: 20-22)

20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. 21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

The apostles didn’t turn to each other and whisper, “I’ll bet it was Judas; he is acting kind of funny lately.” They simply looked inward in self-reflection, “Am I the one? Is there any chance that I might be doing something that would bring about such a comment from the Master? Is my conscience clear of offence?”

This kind of self-evaluation is rare in human beings, but it is very freeing. If you look inward, you can control the outcome. You avoid embarrassment and ridicule from a mistake you might make by blaming someone else.

As you view your own mistakes, it gives you a feeling of compassion toward another’s shortcomings. This kind of self-evaluation gives others a soft cushion of kindness around you that will allow them to come to you for help as problems arise. They will feel that you will listen to them honestly and will not judge them harshly.

Sometimes we become too much of an adult and we lose that spontaneity of children. As I was teaching my first-grade class the other day, I was right in the middle of my lesson. I was going great guns, making sure everyone was understanding, in no uncertain terms, what they needed to know.

Suddenly, I felt two little arms go around my waist. I looked down, and little brown eyes looked up at me. “I love you Mrs. Tenney,” said a little voice. It was Angelo. Angelo possessed the spontaneity we have lost. He didn’t think about the lesson. He didn’t worry about a reprimand. He just wanted me to know he loved me.

Not long ago, my husband walked into my classroom bringing something I had asked him to bring. I said, “Boys and girls, this is my husband.” Little bodies jumped out of their seats bumping into each other to give him a hug.

What an act of sweetness. No one stopped to ask, “Will he feel funny if I hug him? Will Mrs. Tenney be upset?” No, just love. Christlike love being showered upon a virtual stranger that answered to the name of Mrs. Tenney’s husband.

No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the little children ... For such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” These children have not been spoiled by the judgment of others. They are innocent and pure and filled with love. PD