Yesterday afternoon, while walking through HEB with my family, a hurried mom with her two little girls rushed by us in the coffee aisle. The mom didn’t look at us or say anything as she moved past us, but one of her little girls (probably 4 or 5), stopped and said, “I like your baby!”
In addition to being absolutely adorable, this is also a common occurrence when I go anywhere with the Nugget. Pretty much every time I take her anywhere – be it church, a store or daycare – inevitably, a little kid will stop what they’re doing, smile at Nugget and say either of the following:
“Can I touch your baby?” Then proceed to gently stroke her foot or hand.
“She’s so cute!”
“What’s her name?”
“I like your baby!”
This phenomenon is not one I expected when I became a mother. I get more attention from children than adults when I tote my baby around. These children are genuinely excited to see her, and will stop whatever it is they are doing to admire her.
It got me thinking… what happens to that childlike wonder?
Most kids have it – genuine awe and appreciation for things that are beautiful, small and new. You show a kid a baby, a puppy, a butterfly, a baby bird, or even a stuffed animal, and more often than not, they will want to touch it, gaze at it, and care for it. They will get visibly upset if they see any of these things cry or act wounded.
Most children have a natural instinct to protect what is small and vulnerable. Most are very concerned with justice. and see things in a black-and-white context. Is something hurt? Get someone to help make it better. Is someone sad? Do something to make them smile. Does someone need help? Focus your attention and energy on finding help for them.
How many kids would see a baby rabbit abandoned on the sidewalk, and walk by without saying anything? I would guess close to none. Most kids would stop and beg you to help it.
So what happens to us?
What about being an adult makes us able to turn a blind eye to something so obviously wrong as abortion? What happens to that childlike instinct to protect the vulnerable?
Indoctrination? Moral relativism? Denial?
If we look at this trend through the lens of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, we see that most adults only get to Level Two, which is when they internalize moral standards from admired role models, and accept the norms of groups that they wish to be a part of (read: celebrities, social media, etc.).
Our motivation begins to deviate from our natural instinct to protect and help the vulnerable, and begins to be influenced by whether we will be accepted for our actions and beliefs.
This explains so much about how good, and well-meaning people can support the dismembering and destruction of the most vulnerable humans on the planet.
Perhaps their fear of being rejected for supporting an unpopular belief is so strong, that their brains protect them with a thick coat of denial:
“Planned Parenthood doesn’t kill babies or sell their organs.”
“Human life doesn’t begin at conception. That’s just a clump of tissue.”
“I’m not going to tell someone not to have an abortion – that’s their choice.”
“A woman has a right to kill her unborn fetus – it’s her body.”
And the list of un-truth’s goes on.
Another possibility is that their brains can’t accept that Planned Parenthood would practice something so horrific, so inhumane, and so incredibly vile like dismembering and selling babies. So again, the denial sets in. And that’s that.
But what about Kohlberg’s higher levels? His theory states that there is a higher form of morality, that most of us don’t reach. Most of us stop at level 2, which means that we don’t develop our sense of morality past our adolescent years (which is slightly terrifying).
However, if we dared to go beyond popular belief and social media hype, we might find ourselves in Level Three of Moral Development. In this level we would be in the company of people like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and St. John Paul II. This final level is the level of universal ethical reasoning. Individuals who reach this state, will follow personal beliefs and values even if they go against the popular society. They recognize a universal truth about life and humanity – that we all deserve rights, justice and equality. They have seen the world, and recognize the dignity and worth in everything. They follow this moral guidelines, believing they apply to us all.
And they lovingly stand up for what they believe in.
[Now, Kohlberg got lots of criticism for his theory (naysayers love philosophers), and I’m not saying he was right about everything. I’m just using his rubric to help me wonder how we get to be how we are.]
Allow me to close with this…
Several years ago, a group of researchers posed this question to varying groups of adults:
“What’s something that poor people have, rich people don’t have and is greater than God and more evil than the devil?”
Most adults puzzled over this again and again, and couldn’t come up with an answer.
The researchers posed this questions to 5 year-olds, and they instantly replied,
Children have an innocent wisdom that we as adults often lose. They are simple in their reasoning, and their ability to love is uncluttered by the stresses and realities of adulthood. They see someone in need, they want to help. They see a baby, they want to love and admire it.
They recognize – without considering if it’s popular – that all things, great and small, are worthy of care and love.
And that is why children are pro-life.
Those of you who are pro-choice and reading this, I encourage you to think about this:
If you ask a child what we should do to help a pregnant woman who is scared, poor and wounded, what would they say?
You might answer by telling me that it’s more complicated than that. That there are many factors at play that a child doesn’t understand.
But really, take the time to think of an answer. What would a child do?
I would think that a child would answer that question by saying we all needed to do whatever we could to help the woman keep her baby and make her feel safe and cared for. That the woman and her baby deserved to be taken care of by the community she found herself in – that we are called to love her and help her.
Children are wise in ways that are lost to us as adults – maybe we should be more like them.