The Weekly Dream: Growing Pains
“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 Cor. 13:11
“You cannot put a grown head on a child’s body.”
The last couple of weeks this particular verse has been on my mind. As my peers and I are undergoing tremendous changes and new responsibilities, maturity is something that I keep coming back to. I remember when I was seven and my father told me I was the man of the house and what that meant to me. I knew I was held to a different standard because I had responsibility. I could not afford to be careless or to set a bad example for my siblings. I could no longer comport myself as a child.
One of the definitions of maturity is “a person who responds to circumstances or the environment in an appropriate manner, one that is learned and reasoned rather than impulsive.” A synonym for maturity can be proficient or skillful. This definition illustrates that maturity is a process that each of us must undergo. and every process takes time No one is perfectly mature in every matter or situation, or else you would be perfect. We must go from babyhood to children to mature adults.
What are the traits that characterize each phase? Babyhood is marked by ignorance, innocence and irritability. As we get older, we lose the one desirable trait (innocence) and rarely shed the other two. Eventually, we grow and move into childhood. Childhood is described as a period of unsteadiness, curiosity and talkativeness. A child will talk your ear off about nothing. I remember when I was growing up, my grandfather would always tell me to get off the phone because I was not talking about anything. A child has not learned the value of silence.
And a child is rarely dependable because they distract easily. They are more concerned with pleasing themselves and fun than doing what needs to be done. However, a child is curious, and depending on how that is directed, can be good or bad. Everything is new and filled with possibility, but sometimes, if not guided correctly, that curiosity can become nosiness.
Maturity is not being austere and super serious all the time, but knowing the time and place to take the proper action. I like to think that a mature person takes the best from each of these phases and expresses them in a disciplined manner. A mature person can take the innocence of a baby to remain open, humble and teachable. He can take the curiousity and wonder of a child to take risk and to dream. But he has the disposition to make these traits be his servant and not his master. My grandparents used to say if you live long enough, you will experience a great number of things. It is not enough to have experience, but we must be taught in order to interpret these experiences in the correct manner if we are to have proper growth.
I believe we also come to maturity through building on what is real and cleaving to what is good. As my mother says, “too many people are living in a fantasy world.” Meaning that there is a disconnect between belief and action. How you handle responsibility tells a lot about where you are in your development in certain areas. Children run from responsibility. They may say they are ready for it, but when they find out it is not fun, they cast it off. Duty is not convenient. And this by far is the most unpleasant fact about maturity-it is not always fun. Samuel Johnson said, “life is a state where there is much to be endured and little to be enjoyed.” It is a bit pessimistic, but the mature person has an endurance that babies and children do not. This endurance is what makes a person strong. We do not have to eat every two to three hours. We do not need constant attention and validation. We do not have to always get our way. But a mature person deals with discomfort and sacrifice and disappointment and pain and troops it out. A mature person grows wiser through experience, but does not let those experiences embitter him. A mature person does what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
This is a very tall order and no one is perfect. We all have work to do in this area. We must examine ourselves for the areas we are not mature in. It may be in our relationships, it may be in our life decisions, it may be in the company we keep. No one is exempt. But let us take strength for the road ahead, because life is coming whether we like it or not. And for some of us, life is already here. There is nothing worse than to be “Peter Pan” in the land of adults. Eventually, even Peter Pan had to grow up. However, by not forgetting to take the best from each phase, when the cold cold world comes knocking on your doorstep, you can bounce back with the resilience of your younger days and take joy in the simple things.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas