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Your Turn: Adulthood vs. Maturity

Woman on swing at beach
Being an adult without being mature is no fun — for you or your family.

They were doing it again. My parents were not letting me pay for something. Aren’t parents supposed to rejoice when their kids are old enough to pay for lunch? But mine simply smiled at one another and slid the debit card across the counter when I offered to pay.

Outwardly, I was amused. After all, why did they have to be so nice? Inwardly, I was frustrated. Why couldn’t they let me be an adult? I wasn’t a kid anymore. I was 23 and had a well-paying, albeit part-time, job. I was a big kid. And big kids pay for stuff; that’s how they show their independence. In that moment, I began to realize that my wanting to pay my own way wasn’t because I was unselfish or diligent, but because I was proud. I might as well have shouted, “Oh, yeah! Well, I can shell out money, too!”

Our world presents a very murky picture of adulthood. And for those of us in the “hungry years,” it is easy to look at the external factors and make that “adulthood.” Adulthood, then, would be:

  • Driving your own car
  • Paying for your own expenses
  • Living at your own place

And the list goes on, because in the eyes of our world, adulthood equals autonomy. Adulthood symbolizes the freedom to make one’s own decisions and be responsible for the outcome. What happens, then, when you can’t be as autonomous as you like?

Not everyone owns a car. Not everyone is able to get a good job in the post-2008 economy. That’s when how adult you really are will come into play because autonomy does very little good without self-control. And the truth is that adulthood is more about responsibility than autonomy.

The Bible never tells us that thou art not an adult until thou ownest a car. The Bible does admonish us to walk in wisdom in our relationships with unbelievers and to be a good steward of our time (Colossians 4:5). The Bible also tells us to be responsible with what we are given. In the Parable of the Talents, the servant with two talents does not grumble because he does not have the freedom to invest what the servant with five talents has. He does the best with what he has been given. The fruit of the Spirit exemplify the biblical idea of maturity — “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness; self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV). This is the biblical picture of maturity — one that we as Christians will move toward our whole lives.

Learning to deal with less autonomy than you expected is a good way to learn some of those fruits — self-control, gentleness, patience. Adulthood is an age range. Maturity is a learned attitude. The King James Version of the Bible translates Philippians 2:3 to read: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but let each esteem other better than himself.” This is the essence of maturity: learning to put the good of others ahead of your own pride and interests.

Being an adult without being mature is no fun — for you or your family. Rites of passage — like car ownership — are great. But let’s not use external pieces of adulthood as claim to the concept itself. Let’s behave as adults, growing in maturity and in Christlikeness.

That doesn’t mean to mooch off your parents. That doesn’t mean to not approach your parents in a loving way when you feel smothered. But it does mean to focus more on how we are growing like Christ than on fitting into the idealized picture of “adulthood.”

As we move forward in our adult years, we will learn more and more what we can and cannot control. Perhaps it is more adult to learn to be meek even when things are out of our hands.

Rebeca Parrott works in a clerical position and commits random acts of poetry-writing whenever time permits.

If you would like to contribute a post to the Boundless blog’s “Your Turn” Friday feature, see “Writers Wanted” for more details.

Copyright 2014 Rebeca Parrott. All rights reserved.

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