In Part 1 of What is Maturity we looked briefly at some definitions and characteristics of maturity, focusing on emotional maturity rather than physical or Spiritual maturity. We considered some basic reactions that people may have that indicate their maturity. In Part 2, we will look briefly at some ways to evaluate maturity and what it takes to fill in gaps we may find.
Although we do not have the maturity level sheets in front of us, we can look at few questions about the maturity tasks that may steer us towards evaluating our own maturity level. Answer the following questions and consider the level at which they should have been completed:
Do I know what satisfies the way God defines satisfaction? (Child stage—ages 4-13)
Do I know the characteristics of my own heart? (Adult stage-age 13 to birth of first child)
Do I know how to do hard things or do I procrastinate? (Child stage)
Am I able to regulate my own emotions? (Infant stage—Birth to 4)
Can I bring two or more people back to joy (reconnect after conflict) at the same time? (Adult stage)
Do I know how to ask for what I need or do I “manipulate”? (Child stage)
Do I know how to give without expecting anything in return? (Parent stage-birth of first child)
Do I know how to parent and mature my community? (Elder stage—youngest child is 13)
Do I know how to receive with joy, without guilt or shame? (Infant stage)
Am I trustworthy so that my community can depend on me? (Elder stage)
Do I know how to take a ‘no’ and deal with disappointment? (Child stage)
Do I know how to return to joy from negative emotions? (Infant stage)
Do I know how to take guidance from Elders? (Parent stage)
Do I protect others from myself so as not to hurt them if I am losing control? (Adult stage)
Do I understand how to have mutual satisfaction or does it all have to go my way? (Adult stage)
As we look at emotional maturity and wonder at which maturity level we may be operating most of the time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and/or feel down. It is vital to remember that maturity is not about value nor is it a place to take shame. Our backgrounds greatly determine our maturity level and God loves to heal us and grow us. He desires to bring us to “earned maturity” that corresponds to our chronological age. Earned maturity simply means that we have completed all the needs and tasks for a certain stage of maturity. Where we are is where we are, but with God, hard work, and help from a loving community we can fill in the gaps that are lacking from our childhood and heal from the traumas that made us get stuck at a younger emotional age than our chronological age.
How do we as adults work on growing through that level where we may be stuck? What is God’s part and what is our part? From the Scripture, Dr. Wilder has separated these responsibilities quite well, although they overlap with each other as to cooperation. He says that salvation, deliverance, healing and redemption are God’s responsibility. Maturing is a human’s responsibility; it is not a spiritual gift (James 1:4). Maturing was not automatic during our childhood years and it won’t be automatic now. Working on the unmet needs and unmet tasks requires courage and co-operation with God’s guidance and leading, as we do our part with support from loving relationships. We do the hard work that it takes to grow up–to ask for help, to talk about and feel our unresolved pain, to get accountability from others who are willing to speak truth to us.
As we think about these questions that can help evaluate our maturity it is easy to see that maturing is a job for the community. It is not the job for a spouse, though spouses will be supportive and encouraging. It will take authentic relationships with people who are trustworthy to tell us where the lacks are and to support us while we go back through a missed task, while we look at the Absence of good things that were supposed to happen (Type A traumas) and any Bad things that happened (Type B traumas).
Small groups at church and close friends are good places for finding the community support we need to complete tasks and get help with needs we have missed. Just as we give our children plenty of time and room to grow, it’s good to keep in mind that, no matter the age, maturing can be a very long and slow process. It’s important to give yourself and others plenty of grace to move along.
As parents and/or grandparents, we want to keep in mind that our own emotional maturity greatly affects those around us and how we relate to them, especially children. Having a good understanding of maturity and what the needs and tasks are for growing up can prod us to find a place to get healing from any traumas that might have arrested our growth, as we seek a loving community to help fill in the lacks. Most of all, we must remember that we are very valuable, regardless of the level of maturity we may have earned.
“The beginning of wisdom is ‘Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7