Innocence and Wisdom

Olaf as a character is often characterized as "childish", and sometimes classified as "childlike." This comes from a primary misunderstanding of Olaf's character, as well as a misunderstanding of the words themselves. To dig into this a little deeper, let's look at these two descriptors first:

Child-ISH versus Child-LIKE

ChildISH

ChildLIKE

immature innocent
foolish trusting
puerile pure
petulant hopeful
self-centered open

Though we often use "childish" and "childlike" interchangeably, there are clear differences in their meanings. "Childish" carries a predominately negative connotation, while "childlike" carries positive meaning. Some might still argue that Olaf matches the definition of "childish;" I, however, view Olaf as "childlike." Far from being immature, Olaf displays an otherworldly wisdom, the wisdom that knows that all suffering is temporary, and that our lives and selves do not have to remain under the burden of suffering forever. In whatever he does, he seeks to resolve troubles and restore hope to those who feel lost; he also offers compassionate help without judgment. He is even innocent of the seven deadly sins (gluttony, lust, greed, pride, despair, wrath, envy, and sloth), which is a feat of wisdom in itself!

Why Are Innocence and Wisdom Always Linked?

I was confused by this as a child and teenager, but as I've grown up, I've come to believe that to be wise, we each have to consciously confront and dispel our prejudices, seek out healing for our past traumas, and stop focusing on concepts that drag us into negative thinking, such as revenge, possession, and justice. In essence, when we do this, we are undoing damage that society has done to us, and reclaiming as much innocence from our childhoods as we can. Innocence teaches that no one is too bad to love, and that loving anyone is a gift of freedom rather than putting someone else in chains. Wisdom teaches that such pure, positive concepts as love, forgiveness, and compassion are the most worthy pursuits, and they lead us to the wisest courses of action. So, as opposite as these two qualities first appear, they are actually quite compatible.

For me, then, Olaf represents both innocence and wisdom. He sees and knows how evil the world can be, but he chooses to keep pursuing good in his words and actions; he chooses not to let the world's ideas change his simple faith in goodness. What a powerful example!