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Using the Phrase "Inner Child"


By Mark Sandford


Should we use the phrase, "inner child?" Some persons think we are saying there is a child part and an adult part in us in a way that is somewhat similar to DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, which used to be called "Multiple Personality Disorder").

Scripture doesn't explicitly speak of a separate part we can call the "inner child." But that doesn't give us license to throw away the concept altogether, for Paul said, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The implication is that many of the Corinthians had not outgrown their childhood ways of thinking and acting. Furthermore, the need to mature from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity is spoken of throughout the Bible.

What needs clarifying is that we shouldn't speak of the "inner child" as if this is a separate person. What some call "inner child" is simply the core of one's self. Preferably, it will always remain childlike (Matthew 10:15 — Jesus said we should receive the Holy Spirit like little children; 1 Peter 2:2 — Peter said that like little children we should crave pure spiritual milk). But in many cases this has been prevented by defects of character from fully developing beyond childishness into childlike maturity. The head wants to live life like a mature adult. The heart is stuck in painful childhood memories and childish ways, and it still thinks, feels, and acts like the child we once were.

Many Christians take the phrase, "inner child," in the way I am suggesting, and this is the meaning we intend. But some persons can't read the spirit of what is said, and become fixated on hyper-literal meanings of words and catchphrases. Not only for their sake, but for the sake of biblical accuracy, and to keep some who embrace our teachings from applying them in a wrong way, if we use the term, “inner child,” we should offer a biblical explanation of what we mean by it, to prevent confusion.


© Mark Sandford 2018

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