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Childlike, not childish

Can you remember being a kid and the excitement of a new day, which would bring so many new possibilities? Can you remember those nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and how we believed that all stories had happy endings? Close your eyes and see what childhood memories come to you 

Before society molds us and shapes us, we are children. This is our one shared experience. We may end up in different places as adults, but we all started on a common level at birth — childlike. 

Matthew 18:3 says unless you become as a child again, you will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. This does not mean there is anything wrong with maturing and growing up in Christ. We all need to be constantly learning and growing. However, there is a big difference between remaining childlike and being childish. 

In this verse, our Father did not mean we need to act juvenile. Rather, He wants us to demonstrate childlike traits that help us draw closer to Him. 

The best way to distinguish between childlike and childish is to understand their meaning. These words are both associated with the characteristics of a child, but there is a huge difference between them. 

The word childish typically has a negative connotation and refers to behavior in which someone acts selfishly or immaturely. Conversely, the word childlike is most often used in a positive sense. For example, childlike qualities are innocence, honesty, purity and trust. 

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child. I understood as a child; I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Growth and maturity in Christ involve putting certain childish things behind us. “You are only young once” is a statement we’ve all heard — but let us not stay immature indefinitely. 

We should strive to remain childlike, not childish, and retain our sense of wonder and amazement. Our Father wants us to have a childlike heart filled with innocence, purity and true love for God and others. 

Surprisingly, becoming more childlike can lead to greater maturity. By expecting without requiring, accepting without judging, being honest without being cruel and drawing on the strengths of our friends, we can become more joyful, content, gentle and relaxed. So, when Jesus says we should be like children, he wants us to experience the joy of relying on God and completely trusting him — to be wise and mature in our thinking and decisions while remaining childlike in our hearts. 

Robin Killeen is founder of W.O.W. (Women of Wisdom). W.O.W. meets every second Wednesday of the month at noon at the Knight Nonprofit Center in Gulfport. 

Written by Robin Killeen

Robin Killeen is the founder of W.O.W. Women of Wisdom. Reach her at (228) 424-0098 and learn more at

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