What Makes a Person or Adult “Mature”?
This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.
I had a vague idea of what it was, but other than that I just couldn’t quite get a handle on what it meant for a person to be mature. When we were kids, we were new to the world and didn’t yet “know” how to act properly. We looked up to our parents, who supposedly knew much better than we did, for guidance, and yielded to their authority.
We then did the same with all of the other adults in our lives. These would include, relatives, neighbors, teachers, coaches etc.
Now, because they KNEW much more than we did, we decided that the concept of KNOWLEDGE was what separated a mature individual from one that is immature. “My dad knows more than your dad and so he’s better (authority) and so we should listen to him. He knows the ‘right’ way.” Or, “My teacher knows so much about such and such a topic and so we should listen to her.”
Having knowledge is part of the equation and so because of that partial truth, the concept of maturity was somewhat confusing. Confusing because even though as kids we accepted the fact that our parents were the authority, but on some other level, we recognized in a very low resolution way that many of them were also immature. That was hard to untangle.
For instance, parents who were considered immature still had some valuable direction and guidance for us when we were young. They’d tell us not to touch the hot stove, or to not hit our sister and to share and be respectful around others. All of these behaviors were the correct way to act in the world, something we kids didn’t know yet.
So then we got older and accepted that idea of knowledge as measure of maturity and used it to guide us in life. We looked UP to people who were more intelligent and who were also more experienced, or older, and felt that they had more authority than we did. The problem though is that it didn’t always resonate with consistency and congruency, and so we didn’t always want to accept their judgements as correct, but at the same time were not sure how to rationalize that for ourselves.
As an example, we knew that:
1- There were a lot of old people out there but very few “elders.”
The phrase, “Respect Your Elders,” comes to mind and it’s one I’ve never liked. I like to respect everyone upon first meeting (unless I have reason not to), but respect is EARNED, not given for it’s own sake.
Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you are mature.
How many women have you heard say, “Oh but I’m a grandmother! I’ve been around children for 30 years!” Implying that their experience alone makes them a good judge on how to take care of children in the best way possible. While I’ve seen many who had the right balance of being firm yet kind with kids, I’ve also seen many who were just firm and stern and angry, and were taking it out on the children they had in their care. Certainly a cause of much emotional turbulence and NOT a sign of mature behavior.
Maturity generally is associated with age and experience, but they are by no means causal or absolute in determining maturity level.
2- There are many highly intelligent people out there who act like 3-year-olds.
You know many of these people. They tend to have contempt for everyone and everything that is not them and think that their high IQ level alone makes them superior, and a better overall judge than others are. They are very articulate, well read and easily absorb new information (fast processors) at a speed that most people can’t keep up with.
When they argue their side, they believe that because they are able to use better grammar, and, can reference material most people have never read and would have difficulty understanding, that by default they win and are more “grown-up” than those who can’t keep up, which happen to be most of us.
These people are company bosses whose intellects have allowed them to climb the corporate ladder quickly, yet who still have tantrums and take out their anger on their subordinates. They are the slick politician who can talk their way out of any question and use words to gain power for its’ own sake. They are the academic who uses their higher learning skills and gained knowledge to vent out their resentment in the guise of taking a social position that’s higher in morality.
The underlying assumption that these intelligent people adopt is that the “way forward,” or what’s “right,” can be better acted out by listening to them. As smart as they may be, seeing them act like a toddler is enough to believe otherwise.
Like age (experience), intelligence and knowledge can play a part in one’s maturity level, but having them by no means makes it certain that one will be mature. Which brings me to the next point.
3- Acting out Certainty. An illusion that projects competence.
If you really watch people, you’ll find out that some will speak with an exaggerated CERTAINTY from time to time. The amount each person does this varies, but the reason why they do is to make the “other” believe that their truth is the RIGHT ONE, when in reality, they are insecure about their position and are not mature enough to own up to the fact, (this is also done simply to be manipulative.)
Projecting certainty is related to the idea of knowledge (above) as measure of maturity.
We look for certainty in other people as a gauge to know how truthful they are being, or how correct their position is. The more confident, the more we believe. Politicians, salesmen and people who love to play victim or use guilt, are good at portraying certainty.
In truth certainty does have some value as a gauge in determining how congruent people are, but as was mentioned previously, it can be (and often is) easily used to manipulate.
– Intensity and anger, like certainty, can influence us in similar ways. Anger serves the role of intimidator which throws us off our sense of calm and messes with our ability to properly analyze the situation internally. We are conflict avoidant and anger makes us uncomfortable which serves the person trying to give you (force you) their take on any one issue. It can portray authority, especially when combined with intensity.
So again, certainty can give off the illusion of maturity. Our parents were certain of the things they told us and we weren’t, so we look for certainty in others for guidance, even now as adults from time to time.
Maturity – What It Is
These attributes are what I have surmised to be the best descriptors of maturity, and are presented in order of importance.
1- Allegiance to the TRUTH
The single most important attribute of maturity. Deciding to see “what is,” regardless of interest. Nobody can do this perfectly, all of the time, but the more mature people tend to be the ones who are most willing to SEE and ACCEPT the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it may be to their wants or to their situation.
It’s something that’s not always easy. To see the truth means that we may have to see aspects of life or even of ourselves which are not pretty. They may even be reprehensible. How many of want to, or can, do that? Seeing the truth may lead to other uncomfortable discoveries. It may mean we’ll see we need to change jobs, take scary risks or realizing our whole life up until now has been going in a direction we never wanted. Especially painful if we’ve investing so many years into it.
We may see pain and hardship around us, which would put us in the position of perhaps making sacrifices we don’t really want to, to be of service. We may see that WE have been the cause of pain and hardship and must now make amends and perhaps change our lives considerably.
Hard truths. Understandable that we don’t want to look.
The consequences of not doing so though, are even worse. Here are some child/parent examples since this is a blog about inner emotional growth and chances are we’ve been affected as children and are possibly now parents as well:
– Neglecting children and pretending that they are, “Just fine on their own. Real independent kids!” when the reality is that the parent has unresolved issues themselves and can’t cope with the demands of parent hood. To see the truth would be to see their own painful, childhood trauma, and simultaneously realize that they have been a neglectful parent, and that much damage has been done to their children because of them (parent). To stay blind is understandable and much easier, but the mature thing to do is to see and accept the truth so damage can be minimized and repair can get underway. A much better outcome for the kids AND the parent.
– Parents hitting and using corporal punishment with their kids under the guise of the motto, “Kids need discipline!” These parents use the truth of “kids needing discipline,” as an excuse to vent their anger and hostility onto them. This method of discipline may result in the outcome of having the kids be better disciplined … in the short term. A gun to the head may work wonders for getting kids to behave properly too, but it doesn’t justify the means. What these parents conveniently like to block out of their minds is the fact that beaten kids will either go on to be a danger to society and harm others, including their own kids, or they will be traumatized and damaged for much of their adult lives, suffering for decades. What use was that “discipline” if it came with such a cost? A mature parent would take on the incredibly, difficult task of looking inward, accept what is, take ownership and try to do better.
– Pushing children toward friends, schools, partners and careers that the parents want instead of what the child wants, again in the guise of, “It’s good for you”. I’m not talking about trying to keep them away from bad influences or places, something every good parent does. I’m talking about pushing their (the parent’s) un-lived life onto their children. To be mature would be to recognize that they are sacrificing their children’s lives to meet their (the parent’s) own needs. The parent would then have to look inward and face their own painful, unmet needs and take responsibility for them. Then they’d have to face the fact that they’ve unconsciously told their children throughout their (children’s) lives that they won’t be loved unless they take the path the parents want them to. Not easy for any parent to digest. But, the consequences of not doing so would be that the child wouldn’t feel loved for who they were, and will likely end up married to people they may not love, and be doing a job they hate and living a life they don’t want. This will inevitably lead to a depression and be costly for them and everyone around them. Being mature would mean facing the truth and trying to rectify the situation, as uncomfortable as that would be.
2- Orienting yourself toward the good.
The second major aspect of being MATURE is to orient yourself toward the good, after seeing the truth. This means that you will try to act in a manner that is best for you, your family, your community and so on.
This is difficult also. Many of us have been hurt (almost all of us) or have had a tragedy befall us or someone we love. We realize, as a truth that life isn’t fair, and so it’s completely understandable to be bitter and resentful about it.
It feels justified to say something along the lines of, “F**k it, I’m doing whatever the hell I wanna do and I don’t care what anyone thinks or how it affects anybody. Look what’s happened to me!! How unfair it is. Look how those other people cheat, do whatever is in THEIR best interets alone, and are ahead of me. Look at how I suffered and what a mess I’m in now. Someone has to pay! I just don’t care.”
The above point is a good argument. The best reason though to take the harder, mature path is again, because the consequences of not doing so mean even more suffering for you and those around you.
As a parent, ask yourself, “What is best for me, my spouse and my kids.” without lying, or by telling the truth as best you can. Making decisions like this (orienting yourself for the good), is more difficult at first but if you do it correctly, it will allow you to get what you want AND have it be good for everyone around you.
That’s a good deal and a 1000 times better than the “hell” that is the alternative.
***You really have to be careful here that you are coming from a good place and not rationalizing the “good” from a place of resentment. For example, saying it’s good to neglect the kids to make them independent, or that it’s good to beat the kids to instill discipline because an authority source from a book said so etc. so I am doing “good.” Watch out for rationalizing and bias.
If you’re not sure if the truth you found, or the good you are oriented toward is coming from the best place that it can in you, give yourself these tests:
a) Do I feel any resentment or anger or bitterness in me as I make this claim? Really try to focus. If so, it may not be the best way forward for you and your loved ones.
b) Is there any aspect of this truth I am going to take on, that I don’t want to look at? Am I dismissing any counter points or evidence? Am I rationalizing? Am I being willfully blind to something?
None of the truths you find and actions you take will be perfect, they just have to be as close to the truth as you possibly can get at the moment.
If you truly are oriented properly, the truth will feel right. If you’re storing bitterness and resentment, it may be very difficult to see properly.
3- Act it out.
Do all the good you can and always try to come from a place of truth and proper moral orientation.
BECAUSE IF YOU DON”T, PEOPLE SUFFER
How many millions of children are suffering right now and will continue to do so right into the decades of their adult lives, because of immaturity of the part of their parents? That is A LOT of pain! Now, how much of that suffering can be drastically decreased if parents (people!) decided to take on the more mature route?
Remember, maturity isn’t intelligence or experience or age.
It’s seeing and accepting the truth as best you can. Admitting what needs to be admitted no matter how painful or inconvenient or uncomfortable, and orienting yourself toward the good as best you can. And finally acting on it.
You can have an IQ of 80 (which is pretty low) and work as a janitor your whole life and still be MORALLY SUPERIOR and more MATURE than huge swaths of academic intellectuals, economists, engineers, writers and bankers etc… You can do more good and have a much more positive impact on the world than those who look down upon you can.
You can be a HERO. In all seriousness. You have no idea how many lives now and in the future (the unborn), you’ll impact positively when you decide to grow up, and do all the good you can.
The above image, is what a hero parent (or person) looks like in my opinion.
The image at the top of this article, in case you were wondering, is Lady Justice.
Lady Justice – Blindfolded so that she can accept all points of view and not favor one point of view over another (being open). The balance or scales in one hand to measure truth. The sword to symbolize justice, swift and taking action once truth is uncovered. The perfect symbol to represent maturity.
If you decide to take on this responsibility and act all of this out, you will then become your own authority, and that is how you will be able to feel like your point of view is just. And because of that, you will walk a little taller.
Helpful Resources – Self Authoring Suite *** I make no money from the program on that web page nor am I affiliated with it in any way. It’s something I’ve tried and felt to be extremely valuable for self growth.
“Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up. ” – Tom Stoppard
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