Today is Thursday, October 10, 2013.
is the sixth in a series of articles about eight universal spiritual
principles for success in any occupation of life. Previously, I wrote
about humility, purity, compassion, integrity and forgiveness. Today's spiritual principle is innocence.
Innocence has a number of connotations, some positive and others slightly negative, depending on how far you take this quality. The kind of innocence I'm talking about is, first off, a sort of childlike wonder about the world, a way of seeing the world with new eyes. It is refusing to become jaded, no matter now many times we have done a particular thing. It is maintaining an interest in people as if you just met them and want to know more about them, rather than taking them for granted, assuming that there's nothing new to learn about them.
Secondly, the type of innocence I'm talking about here is an assumption of positive forces in the world, a feeling of trust that people are basically good, even when they do or say negative things. It is an underlying faith that a Higher Power exists that will not let creation get irretrievably out of hand. This sort of innocence gives us hope that things will eventually get better when the situation seems negative. It is what allows us to believe that life ultimately has purpose and meaning.
Taken to an extreme, innocence becomes naiveté, a lack of knowledge about the world. I would submit that in an adult, naivete is actually a state of denial. Naiveté has a connotation of credulousness or gullibility. But innocent people are not nearly as gullible as those who are full of lust and greed, whose main goal is to get as much for themselves as possible, even at the expense of others. True innocents don't have the concept of lack or scarcity. For innocents, there is plenty to go around, so they don't feel the need to take from others in order to get for themselves. As well, recall the story, "The Emperor's New Clothes," in which a child is the only one who is willing to say out loud that the emperor is not wearing anything. Many of us have had an experience where a little child dared to tell us something that was perfectly true, but that other adults would never say, perhaps fearing that they might cause embarrassment.
When we greet our students, customers, patients, clients, and co-workers with a fresh outlook every day, an assumption of trust and cooperation, a genuine interest in learning something new about them, and a willingness to speak and hear the truth, things tend to go well, and misunderstandings can be righted quickly.
How can we protect this inner quality as we go through life? One way is to stop exposing ourselves to crude environments, crude language (including song lyrics), and crude behavior. Instead, let us expose ourselves as much as possible to positive, refined, loving, and nurturing environments and associations. What we choose to read and listen to, where we choose to hang out, and whom we choose to hang out with are all very important in cultivating the quality of innocence.
Tomorrow: gratitude. :-)