My husband and I were discussing one of your blogs the other day and he noticed that we don’t have very good definitions for some terms we regularly use. I’ve read the questions you get but I never thought I would ever have one of my own. We would be interested in what you have to say about “maturity.” Thank you in advance.
I get a lot of the same questions framed in different words but you’re the only people to have asked this. It’s an interesting subject that I will attempt to make clearer.
When children are born there is no inside and outside world. There are just experiences. Then they get a separate physical identity, then a separate perspective on the world, and by their teen years they’re growing their own identity. These are all significant shifts in reality so its worthwhile to understand them.
The easiest one to study is the teenager. Up until now they’ve had moods and temperaments and preferences, but not really individual philosophical identities. It’s one thing to hate your parents rules, it’s something altogether different when you realize those rules are only made of thoughts that you have subliminally agreed to repeat to yourself as though they were a reality. But now the teen wants to establish their own boundaries. Undoubtedly wider boundaries. And they’ll start by pushing against the only ones they know—the ones their parents taught them.
The vast majority of teens aren’t really getting in trouble and they’re not being foolish. Teens are starting to wonder what the actual definition of foolish is. This is likely to often be a sullen, secretive, angry, tense part of any parent-child relationship because the teen is intentionally testing limits so there is likely to be disagreement for its own sake. Not to mention the fact that the child is on a hormonal roller coaster. Meanwhile the wiser parents are watch all this wondering if they’re all careening toward disaster. It’s all very dramatic. Thank goodness that the vast majority of people learn from negative experiences.
Each set of tests and consequences adds up to a world view that then gets tested and re-tested as people live their lives. So when we’re a teen all we care about is ourselves. We’ll let our classmates (or a subculture) essentially choose all of our clothing we’re so desperate to fit in. But over time we come to see our friends as individuals separate from us, and then we do the same with our parents. We realize they have dreams and best friends and forgotten plans too. We realize that they are not only our parents, they are individual people. Seeing them that way creates another layer of empathy. Experience by experience we learn more and more about more and more kinds of lives and we realize that we should not have been so judgmental.
Over time we see more and more people to be just like ourselves. Their preferences and their goals might be different from ours, but we can see that their passion for those things is equal to our own. So what is maturity? Maturity is an expansion of our empathy. It is the piling up of experience. The more we see of the world the more we get to see behind the scenes as to why things happen. This makes more and more people’s behaviours understandable which in turn means we can be compassionate about more people in more situations.
We spend most of our lives trying to earn more hugs. Maturity teaches us that, thanks to compassion and understanding, giving hugs feels just as good as getting hugs.
Have an awesome day.