On February 7, 2012, I turned eighteen and was traumatized--not because something happened, but for the rather more interesting reason that nothing happened.
I had developed an assumption that maturity was something that happened when you turned a certain age. It was easy to think that it would be a 'light switch moment'; that you would automatically be mature and 'grown-up' at that age, and continue to be increasingly so as you got older and reached the even more impressive ages of nineteen, twenty, twenty-one (and after that, inevitable and irrevocable adulthood/ultimate maturity.)
Believe me, it was nothing like that. I basically woke up one morning and realized I was eighteen, on the first step of old mature adulthood, and feeling absolutely nothing like it. In fact, I felt absolutely the same as I had yesterday as a seventeen year old. How was that possible??
What does it mean to be mature?
We all have our definition of maturity--our own that we develop, or popular culture's which we unthinkingly adopt.
Being a certain age?
Being allowed to stay out late, make our own decisions, spend money without people questioning us, go skydiving if we want to?
Being 'treated as an individual'?
Being respected by others?
I have been thinking over this and I've concluded that--it's not.
That may seem obvious when it's put forth so simply. But the truth is, it's been unconsciously ingrained into us that these are definitions of 'being grown up'/mature.
That maturity is when people start to treat you as an adult, and you are allowed to do thing you weren't allowed to before.
In fact, all these are merely responses to maturity--not maturity itself.
Let me propose instead a definition of maturity which might seem obvious to some of you and traumatically radical to others: maturity is not a change in how others treat you, but a change in how you treat others.
As humans we are all sinners, just as old man cacti by definition have fluff (I was going to say, as cacti by definition have spikes; but I checked, and apparently some--don't. Having just bought a little old man cactus I suppose that analogy would work as well. The one I have looks exactly like Einstein.)
One particular sin that every single one of us, without exception, struggles terrifically with is selfishness. It has never been hard to be selfish or self-centered, and now it's easier than ever before. The culture and lifestyle we live in today is more individualistic than ever before. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly has a good many bad effects to counter balance its few good ones. Self-love anthems and slogans are everywhere, in movies and songs, on tweets and T-shirts.
Even our relationships. For example, our relationships with our parents have been reduced to the sadly skewed aspect of OUR education, OUR career, OUR future.
And as children, this is actually very natural. Without social manners to constrain us, or hard experience which tells us otherwise, we really do believe, and live as if, the world revolves around ourselves. Children are simply not mature enough to see beyond their own needs for long. It never occurs to them to do otherwise. It is the parents' duty to gently train the child to stop living in such a narrow, self-centered life, to start taking an interest in others and caring for others. Share your sweets. Say please and thank you. Take care of your brother. Talk to grandparents on the phone. Say hello to the adult visitors. Pick up your toys after you finish playing. Help Mommy carry in dirty laundry.
These are--quite literally--baby steps to seeing people as individuals--not merely how they relate to us.
We stop seeing and treating them like accessories to our lives--we need or enjoy them, so we pay them attention; if not, we shut them out as efficiently and quickly as possible.That's how we treat people like inanimate accessories. I've met people who showed me how a phone or gadget would feel like if it had feelings. I've been made to feel like a Nokia phone that's looked down on for not being an iPhone. Or a faulty Nokia that isn't worth their time to acknowledge it's even there. Or even treated like an iPhone--but a phone nevertheless. Phones don't have feelings. Phones also don't exist, are not important outside of catering to our needs. I'm not grumbling or judging these people--well, I try not to; because I know that I've been guilty of this myself.
This is not a viable way of living, simply because this is not how life is meant to be. God did not intend us to go through life choosing and using only the convenient and pleasant people to be with, ignoring and dumping all the others. This is obvious when we turn the case around and try to picture ourselves as one of these 'human accessories' to the people in our lives.
It's horrid, isn't it? You wince at the thought of your best friend using you as something to boost their ego, a security measure, or worse still, an article of convenience. We hate being 'used' by people. We want them to respect and appreciate us for who we are. (Half the angsty teenage friendship/romance/individuality rants go in endless circles around this theme!)
If we can feel this so strongly, why can't we actually live this out in how we, in turn, treat others?
I wonder too, myself.
Perhaps, maturity is when we realize that everyone we meet is an individual like ourselves that desires to be respected and appreciated for who they are. (again, this is so obvious that it sounds stupid, but who says humans aren't stupid? Too many obvious truths are not obviously lived out.)
Perhaps maturity is when we stop being obsessed with how others treat us and instead start examining how we treat them.
Perhaps maturity is not a change in how others treat you but a change in how you treat others.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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