Characteristics of Maturity

I

f I were asked, "How can you tell if a person is mature?" I would respond by saying, "If a person consistently acts in a mature manner, he would be a mature person. However, if on the other hand he consistently acts in an immature manner, you can be certain that he would be an immature person." As Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do."

While none of us is perfect or completely mature, if we understand the characteristics of maturity, we can work on these to grow in maturity. While there are many characteristics the following certainly would be among the top five:

First, emotional maturity. What many fail to see is that we cannot have spiritual maturity without a healthy level of emotional maturity. While our spiritual maturity will be reflected in the quality of our relationship to God, emotional maturity will be reflected in the quality of our relationships with people. They go hand in hand. As God's Words say, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."1 Many may disagree, but in reality I'm no closer to God that I am to people.

Among other things, emotional maturity means we will have a healthy self-concept not thinking too highly or too lowly of ourselves. We will also have a healthy sense of self-acceptance and self-worth, which are both vital for loving relationships and making the best use of our life. We were created for relationships and thus healthy relationships are vital for both physical and emotional wellbeing, while impaired relationships are one of the main causes of unhappiness and a major cause of stress, anxiety and physical ills.

Spiritual and emotional maturity will pretty much guarantee that we will have quality relationship with God, others and our self.

Emotional maturity means
we will have a healthy
self-concept not
thinking too highly or
too lowly of ourselves.

Second, being personally responsible. Another vital characteristic of maturity is acting responsibly and appropriately in all situations ... neither overreacting nor underreacting. People overreact when an unresolved issue from the past is triggered and they reenact a response to this past painful event that has never been resolved. People underreact when they withdraw from dealing with an issue they need to confront. Some excuse this as being Christian and not wanting to hurt someone's feelings when, actually, it is basically being weak, afraid, or insecureónot to mention being dishonest.

As John Powell so eloquently said, "We defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it may hurt another person and then, having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships."

Being responsible means we refuse to play the blame-game. Consistently blaming someone else for problems will cause us to B-LAME! When working in divorce recovery workshops over the past couple of decades I have found that almost all people in impaired relationships primarily blame their partner for the breakdown in the relationship. They forget that it takes two to tango and that they have contributed to the problem, whether by being too weak, too passive, or too co- or over-dependent, and what it was that attracted them to their partner in the first place.

On one occasion a friend once said to me, "Are you angry at me because I've been divorced three times?" "Angry, no," I answered, "afraid, yes!" "Well they were all jerks," she responded. So I asked, "Well, why did you marry them?"

Sadly my friend is now on her fifth marriage.

The reality is unless we act responsibly and admit, confront, and resolve our personal issues, we are destined to repeat them. It's either resolution or repetition.

Maturity necessitates that we face and resolve all past conflicts and come to the point where we genuinely forgive all who have ever hurt us. Failing to forgive only hurts us. It's "like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

Furthermore, blaming others for the difficulties we have keeps us forever locked into and bound by the past. Past experiences may have been excruciatingly painful, and we may not have been responsible for what happened to us, but as adults we are totally responsible for what we do about overcoming the effects they had on us and for what we become.

Continued on Page Two


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