Childish vs. Childlike

219 QUESTION: [Child] A lot of times you said that such and such is childish. I want to know what you mean by that.

ANSWER: Let us make a distinction between childish and childlike. Childlike is beautiful, and no adult can be truly joyful and creative and happy unless they preserve also their childlikeness.

Childlikeness means the capacity to be joyous and adventurous and to find out the excitement of new things, to be fresh and to question and to learn and not to have a set mind in which one thinks one knows everything. That is being childlike and that is an invaluable quality that you should truly nurture in you.

By childish I mean immature. Immaturity is the misunderstanding, the ignorance of the very young who have to learn and see what life is all about. It is perhaps the quality I just described, the inability to accept frustration, which is childish or immature.

It is the false belief that if you do not have what you want immediately, you will perish, or something very bad will happen, or you can never be happy again. That is childish. So is the inability to take discipline. That is childish in the sense that a person who is unable to take discipline is governed by a false understanding, and this is very different from the childlike quality that is so valuable.

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