As we look at the violence, corruption, and crime we’re exposed to in the news, through TV shows and movies, and perhaps in our own lives, it can seem that innocence is a quality that’s easily lost and, sometimes intentionally, taken; and that we can become desensitized to the effects of evil or negative influences.
In praying about this, I’ve found it helpful to turn to the Bible. Christ Jesus taught that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must “become as little children” (Matthew 18:3). He wasn’t referring to age or physical size; he was referring to the qualities present in our thought – such as innocence – that can bring our lives into accord with heavenly harmony. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains, “Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right” (p. 236).
Jesus’ teaching that we “become as little children” would make little sense, and certainly wouldn’t be particularly helpful to us, if it were possible for our innocence, our receptivity to good, to be irrevocably lost. Another of Mrs. Eddy’s works, “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” indicates that, indeed, this is impossible: “God creates man perfect and eternal in His own image. Hence man is the image, idea, or likeness of perfection – an ideal which cannot fall from its inherent unity with divine Love, from its spotless purity and original perfection” (p. 262).
Our purity, our innocence, is inherent in all of us, derived from God, divine Love. It emanates from God’s goodness, which is expressed in us because it is our very nature as the spiritual likeness of God, Spirit. This means we can’t fall from innocence any more than we, as God’s reflection, can fall out of our relationship to God, our creator.
Some time ago, there was a period of time when profane words and phrases would regularly pop into my head. Particularly distressing to me was that they seemed to come out of nowhere, and they did not seem natural to me. It seemed that some of my innocence had been lost, in a sense, as years of being exposed to casual use of such expressions – at social events, in movies, around town – had impressed them in my thought.
Initially, I resigned myself to believing that there wasn’t anything I could do about it. But because of what I had been learning in the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings about man’s true, spiritual identity, I realized that my innocence could never truly be lost. This gave me the strength to mentally resist the suggestion that something could be more powerful than my God-endowed purity. Whenever an obscenity appeared in my thought, I would immediately hold firmly to my understanding that no harmful influence could touch me, or change me from being who I actually am: the express image of God, good.
I began noticing that these incursions into my thought happened less and less frequently, until one day I realized they had stopped altogether. And though exposure to such influences has still seemed inevitable, they haven’t taken control of my thought in this way again.
Recognizing that our purity, our love of right and receptivity to good, is inherent in us strengthens our ability to resist influences that would try to undermine our innocence. No matter where we are, we can all strive for purity and innocence in our own lives, because it’s part of who we truly, spiritually are. And that is certainly a blessing!