Some weeks back I asked my five year old if he would be willing to get a radioactive spider bite if it meant getting spider-man’s powers. He stared at me for quite some time, then asked, “would it hurt?”
I smirked, and replied, “Yes. It would hurt pretty bad, but only for a little bit. But then, you’d get ALL spider man’s powers.” He stopped again to think. After some time, he told me he’d need to think about it some more.
Fast forward a few days and I had forgotten all about the conversation. While getting his P.J.’s on before bed one evening, he brought up the question again. “Dad, do you remember when you asked me about getting spider man’s powers?”
“Yes,” I replied, “Of course I do.”
He twisted his mouth to the side and said, “I don’t think I’d let the spider bite me.”
I leaned over and grabbed his shoulder. “It wouldn’t hurt for long, remember? And then you’d have powers the rest of your life! You love to climb on stuff, just imagine if you were like spider man!” He looked at me with wide eyes. What he said next, i’ll never forget.
“But, I want to be innocent.”
“Innocent?” I asked, a little surprised by his answer.
“Yeah,” he continued. “Like, I don’t want to have to fight people… or get all bloody.”
I sat in silence for a few seconds. This kid LOVES to climb and jump on everything. His favorite dreams are of being a monkey and climbing the trees in the jungle. Having spider man’s powers would make the world his playground. But he didn’t want them. He was never scared of the spider bite. He was scared that having powers would force him to get into fights with others. He knew he’d have to get bloody. Cause pain and receive it. This wasn’t an answer he gave in fear, it was a heart felt desire to live joyfully amongst others. So much so that he was willing to give up literal superpowers for it.
His little heart left me with several questions to ponder. What ideals am I hanging onto without thinking through how it would effect my relationships with others? Am I using the power I have to bloody others, bloody myself, or am I using it to build, lift up, and encourage?
While superheroes are great, and there is certainly a time and place to stand up to wrong with our fists, true power is much more than that. True power builds up. Makes space for others. Carves a path for them if necessary. True power seeks to heal all wounds, enemy and ally alike. Innocence and power don’t have to be opposing forces. Innocence is not an attribute to toughen our kids up from or shelter them from. It comes from a sincere desire for the world to be a better place. I and for one can’t think of anything more noble for my son to aspire to.