I have a confession to make.
And I am not proud of it. At all.
Some time ago, I was walking through the parking lot of a mall after I parked my car. I walked casually towards the entrance to the mall. It was a relatively busy day and the parking lot was quite packed, so everyone was understandably in a rush to get a parking spot quickly. As I parked my car quite far away from the mall entrance I had to walk and maneuver my way through cars queueing to get a parking spot. I was walking by a car whose driver seems to be in a rush to get somewhere because the moment I walked past, he horned me. The horn was very loud and naturally it surprised me. Surprised and annoyed, I raised my hand and quickly flipped the bird at the driver and kept walking.
As I kept walking closer to the entrance, I felt regretful for having done so. The further I walked, the more I felt remorseful. I wish I could tell you that I decided to turn around and then go to apologise for making such a rude gesture. But I did not. Instead I kept walking and I kept telling myself that it wasn’t my fault at all. My own pride and immaturity prevented me from choosing what’s right instead of choosing what’s convenient and what’s easy.
I came home that day feeling convicted and in deep thoughts. I came home repentant. I am also grateful however that I did not get carried away with my actions earlier that day. I did not open my mouths to say anything. Had I did, I would have gotten into a shouting contest with the driver and would have said things much to my regret later. Although I wasn’t proud of my actions, I was grateful that I was more mature than I was years ago. That day, I am ripping the benefit of my daily pilgrimage at becoming more mature.
Why is it so important to be a mature person? How do you define maturity anyway?
I once asked a group of friends how they define maturity. Their differing answers revealed to me that some people were either confused about maturity or do not seem to think much about it. But the following is true, most people think about maturity in different ways.
Of course, the definition of maturity itself is not fixed. If there is something that is fixed, it is my belief that no one is entitled to enforce or label someone’s maturity or immaturity based on their own perspective or definition of what maturity is. I am saying so because I have been on the receiving end of unfounded labeling myself. It was hurtful and at the same time bewildered, yet I am glad that I did not find my security and identity in someone else’s opinion of myself. I find it in God with whom I have utmost faith in. That said, as I write this post, I did not intend for it to be used to point finger at someone else about their immaturity, rather, I encourage readers to use it solely as a reflective exercise for the purpose of growing oneself. After all, I do not think that my definition is any better than others who have written prior to mine, or if it is meant to be used as the only correct definition of maturity.
Here’s what I believe maturity should be defined as:
1. It is not about age
First and foremost, I would like to bust the myth that maturity comes with age. Although it may be true that as one grows with age, there may be increasing potential for the person to become mature. However, the end result is never guaranteed. This is because, like one’s character and growth, one needs to be intentional about growing in maturity. No one can become mature by accident. It requires a daily commitment and effort to make the intentional decisions to do the right thing.
2. It is about taking, and accepting one’s responsibility.
One important area for a person to mature is when he or she begins to understand and to accept his responsibilities. There are people who seem to believe that rights comes before responsibilities. Unfortunately, unless they change their mindset, then they will continue to demand more than they are willing to give. A mature person understands that for every single action or non-action that they take, there will be consequences that they have to bear.
3. It is not about knowledge.
I have seen more than enough share of people saying that a knowledgeable person signifies a mature person. Frankly, I used to believe in the same thing myself. Yet, I am beginning to understand that knowledge alone can not and do not guarantee someone’s maturity. A mature person will definitely thirst and continually seek knowledge, however the equation is not always reversible. Just because you have read more books or perhaps understand slightly more about the universe, unless you are committed to use the knowledge for the benefit of others, all that knowledge means nothing.
4. It is about focusing on others, rather than self.
A mature fellow makes decisions and takes actions with the benefit of others in mind. They turn their attention from themselves towards others. They understand that the world will become a much better place if every individual shift their focus from selfish desires towards a common goal. When things do not go their way, instead of being resentful or complain, they are able to accept it wholeheartedly without blaming others. They are willing to commit themselves to making life better for others. However, they also understand that in order to help others, they need to look after their own well-being. That is, they are able to keep a healthy balance between helping others while not losing their own purpose in the process.
5. It is about practicing the Golden Rule.
I am sure that you know about the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A slightly different variation sounds like this, “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” Need I even say more? However, allow me to share my own struggle with this rule. Many years ago, when I first come across this rule, I challenged myself to practice this rule. And I thought, what better way to practice than to do it with people that are closest to me? What I did not know at the time was that I just took on the most difficult challenge for myself. For the next few months as I repeated to myself “Do unto others as you would them do unto you.”, I found myself giving in to my selfish desire much too often. Why? I became tired of going first. I loathed the idea that I have always been the one to forgive and to apologise. I hated the fact that I seem to always be the one who gave tolerance. It became clear to me however, that I have not really understood the Golden Rule yet. Immaturity likes to take turns giving in, and forgiving others, also letting others get the benefit first. Maturity will always say that “It is always my turn to give in first.”
So there you are. This is how I see maturity. However, as I write, I also realise one significant issue. Maturity is not meant to be a destination. It is not like a single point in life which you achieve and then you cease trying. Maturity is a journey. There are different degrees of maturity and one does not simply say that they have become mature and that’s it. It is unfair to judge a person as being immature just because of few immature behaviour. A mature person, of all people, should be the one to understand that best. Similarly, it is also unwise to consider someone mature just because he or she did something mature and worthy of praise a few times. I do encourage however, that we encourage and praise those around us who did something mature and instead of condemning bad behaviour, assist the other person to change.
Discussion and Challenge Question: Where do you see yourself now in terms of maturity? What are you prepared to give up to make an intentional effort and daily commitment to grow in maturity? In which area do you think you need help in? Please let me know in the comments.