How would you define maturity?
I know it when I see it, but it’s surprisingly difficult to verbalize.
According to psychologist and author Henry Cloud, maturity can be defined as follows: “Immaturity is when we ask life to meet our demands and maturity is when we meet life’s demands.”
Most of us are in the process of becoming more mature, for it requires, as Cloud says, “grace, truth and time.”
Mature people are gracious people. They have learned that we all need grace, that every one of us make mistakes, and when we do it’s the gracious response that’s most helpful.
When I was younger, I had a vague vision of how my life should go. I did well in school, worked hard, developed relationships, and met the requirements of a normal life. Big goals were not on my agenda.
The demands of my life were simple: love, comfort, and honest work. I expected it to just happen, and for much of my life it did. Over recent years, however, I’ve had interruptions in my comfortable life. I endured cancer, had a stroke, and my husband and I experienced a period of frustration as we searched for meaningful work.
Life wasn’t cooperating. It was throwing challenging events at me and I was forced to meet them. Thankfully, grace was abundant. We received nothing but support during those days. No one judged or criticized us.
I consider myself more mature and a little wiser as a result of those circumstances and the gracious responses we received. Life has a way of teaching us the lessons we need to learn.
Maturity also requires truth. Without truth we would all be working toward an unrealistic, self serving narrative. Life brings reality if we’re open to understanding it. The truth we most desperately need is a coherent view of God, ourselves and the world, and the only reliable source of such profound truth is the Bible.
Who is God? He is loving, gracious, and merciful. He is creator and ruler of the universe. He is our judge and our Savior. He is almighty, unbound by human limitations, and all knowing. The Bible teaches a grand narrative that speaks of God creating the world, his disappointment at its fall, and his plan to save us. The better we know the Bible, the better we know God, and the better we know God the better we know ourselves.
Who am I? Without a vivid view of God, we will not understand who we are. I am, first and foremost, a much loved child of God. It has taken me a while to understand that, but the better I comprehend what that means the more secure and whole I feel. Only then can I see myself, my abilities, skills, and potential clearly.
What is the world? When I know God and know that I am his child, then I can take an unvarnished look at this messed up world. It it not always kind, just or fair. Its values are not the same as my values. Evil happens. That’s just the way it is. Nevertheless, God loves it and everyone in it, and he asks his people to demonstrate his love for the world.
Maturity is when I can say that I meet the demands of my life in a messed up world as best I can, because I know that God is with me, that he loves me, and that he has work for me to do. I’m getting there.
This all takes time. It takes time for the truth to sink in. It takes time to recognize grace and to realize one’s need for it. It takes time to grow up.
I knew – sort of – who God was years ago. As I got to know him better, I began to understand myself. The scales are still coming off of my vision of the world. And I’m still a child.
The only lives I’ve had a good view of from birth into adulthood are my children. They are all growing in maturity and have all had successes and struggles, joys and sorrows. Some things came easy to them and others were difficult. It was all necessary for them to develop maturity.
If I could turn back the clock, I would not worry so much about their comfort and would not try to shield them, as if I could, from opportunities to mature that often looked like problems, conflicts, or defeats. A too easy life will not keep a child from physically reaching adulthood, but it may not prepare them well to meet life’s demands.
I want to model a mature life of meeting whatever life throws at me with grace and truth. Time will tell.
What do you think of Cloud’s definition of maturity? Have you experienced maturity through grace, truth and time?