If I were to survey a group of people of varying ages and cultures about what maturity looks like, I think I would get a wide range of answers. Maturity is one of those nebulous words we all believe we understand but have difficulty defining succinctly. There can be a lot of subjectivity involved and our own age and maturity can affect our response as well.
One thing we would all likely agree on is that it is a quality that is considered an asset. I say that with assurance because when we hear someone say, “She/he is so immature” it has a negative connotation. Most of us would also agree that chronological age is not necessarily a corollary with maturity.
From my corner of the universe, one quality that identifies maturity for me is when a person can be honest without being rude, crude, or obnoxious with someone. It means that person can look at life, a circumstance, or a problem for what it is rather than what she or he wants to believe it is or isn’t.
John Eldredge succinctly states: “Maturity means living without denial.”
One of the joys of a healthy childhood is how unrestricted imagination can be. Pretending is great fun. We can be the hero or the villain, the rescued or the rescuer. We can pretend to be any age we wish. It doesn’t work out so well if we continue that habit as we get older. It can appear that someone who tries can get away with it for a short time, but the truth, the reality, catches up with him or her at some point.
We may fall prey to the habit for many reasons, but I think that one of them is that we really want to be better than we believe we are, stronger than we are, cleverer than we are, more knowledgeable than we are, and so on. Somewhere inside we see the deficits and consciously or subconsciously try to wallpaper over the marks we see against us. We also don’t want you to see those things so we might try to work very hard to make you believe in the press we are trying to sell ourselves.
Those tendencies sometimes get in the way of our relationship with the Lord. The secret guilt of knowing we aren’t all we are cracked up to be heaps shame on us that causes us to be much like Adam and Eve and look for fig leaves to cover over our condition. We try to hide.
This tendency is as old as time. Over and over scripture admonishes us to become mature, put away childish things, or grow up. Here are some examples:
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.”Hebrews 6:1-4 (ESV)
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”1 Corinthians 14:20 (ESV)
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV)Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV)
Many situations and circumstances can serve to help us “grow up”, but one of the most direct paths toward the goal might be to admit the truth to the Lord about what we think and believe and ask Him to correct and align those beliefs with the truth. Yes, that might be painful, but what He shares with us will always be spoken with grace and love.
Owning the truth is one of the best qualities we can attain. It will not only develop maturity, but integrity will be a companion of that maturity.
We will gain freedom in our daily lives because we are not trying to keep up the masks and pretense.
We will also begin to experience the richness of authentic relationships with others. Our relationship with the Lord will deepen and we will be congruent in the depths of who we are.