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Virtue 101: Maturity
U. S. A. | SPIRITUAL LIFE | NEWS
Practical tips on how to live and foster maturity in the family.

autumn trees

Why maturity matters

We all know men and women who want to live according to what they believe, follow their dreams, and achieve their goals… and who for some reason are unable to do it.

This kind of person cannot follow through on his own decisions and goals. He starts college and then doesn’t study and fails his classes… gets married and then divorced… gets a job and then loses it… plans a grand project and then abandons it. He ends up as a failure in his moral, financial, and family life, frustrated and dissatisfied with himself.

Why does this happen to people in life? The underlying cause is often just a lack of human maturity.

What is human maturity?

Human maturity is the fundamental consistency between what we are and what we profess to be. The most convincing external evidence of maturity is our fidelity and responsibility in the fulfillment of our commitments and duties.

Maturity doesn’t happen overnight, just like a great symphony is not learned and performed overnight. Each faculty needs to be in its proper place, and since original and personal sin have left things topsy-turvy, putting order requires real effort.

Human maturity involves the order and harmony of many interior elements. Here is an X-ray of the mature person’s inner world:

• Instead of letting emotions dictate his perceptions and actions, the mature person makes reason and faith guide his understanding of life and its events. He makes an effort to see the truth objectively and clearly without giving in to rash judgments based on impressions, moods, or prejudices. He educates his conscience by reading and reflecting on the reasons behind the moral and ethical laws.

• Instead of acting randomly, emotionally, or selfishly, the mature person makes well-thought out and intelligent choices. His will, imbued with love and enlightened by reason and faith, leads him to seek the true good at all times. He reflects carefully before making decisions, so he is not easily fooled by false goods. He lives by principles and convictions that he has freely embraced. He is persevering and tenacious in his commitments.

• Because his mind and will are upright and focused on what is true and good, he enjoys interior peace. You can see his peace in his face, because our interior states are often reflected in our eyes and in our habitual facial expression.

• His interior peace and rectitude enable him to relate well to other people. He is not paralyzed by insecurity or driven by the need to prove himself to other people. He is not focused on himself at all. This fundamental openness to others makes him more able to listen and understand their needs, and to reach out and offer people a helping hand.

• His inner core of integrity makes him a strong person who is quietly confident in who he is and in what he wants to achieve. At the same time, he is humble and open to learn and adapt to new circumstances in life. He does not become rigidly attached to his own ideas or habits, but is flexible, able to respond well to new challenges.

In short, the mature person is already a success in life. And when a mature person opens himself totally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then we have a saint in the making.

How to form our children in maturity:

  1. As parents, be living examples of maturity. Practicing what we preach and living what we teach is half of the battle.
  2. Do not give in to your children’s whims. When children learn that if they whine loudly enough, they can get mom or dad to give in, they are learning that their emotions are capable of ruling everyone around them.
  3. When your children face upsetting realities, gently and lovingly guide them toward a more balanced understanding of the situation. Help them to think it through so that the “monster” (a failed class, a lost friendship) is put in more manageable proportions.
  4. When your children are young, you as parents represent God in a very real way. Teach your children that telling the truth (even after they have done something bad) is always a liberating experience, and that there is always forgiveness and a chance to start over with a clean slate.
  5. At the same time, help them to see that when there are disciplinary consequences, these are always reasonable and in proportion to the “crime.” If children feel that they are being punished out of anger or frustration, they will have less respect for your authority and for the rules of right and wrong that are forming their first understanding of morality.
  6. At dinnertime, as you are sharing the day’s events, be alert to opportunities to help them learn to judge events in a fair, balanced way. Never let your children hear you criticizing other people in a harsh way; they should learn from your example how to speak about other people’s actions in a fair-minded way, emphasizing the good, giving the benefit of the doubt, refusing to pass judgment based on incomplete information, etc. When this is a family habit modeled by the parents, it becomes more natural for children to acquire that same sense of fair-mindedness.
  7. In family conversations, also share stories and examples of people who have made positive, noble decisions for the good of other people. Hearing about these examples (lives of saints, stories of everyday heroes) gives your children a reference point. Make sure to praise your own children richly when they do something noble and generous.
  8. Give your children responsibilities (caring for a pet is a good teaching tool) and praise them for fulfilling them well. Give them bigger and more attractive responsibilities only when they have fulfilled the smaller ones faithfully and well.
  9. Do not let your children give up too quickly on their goals. If they sign up for the soccer team, they need to finish the season. If they are taking piano lessons, they have to finish the year. Teach them that character means sticking it out, even if it’s hard or boring at times.
  10. Let your children fight their own battles without being a helicopter parent who is always hovering near to make sure that Johnny never skins his knee. Overcoming small adversities on their own (with some discreet guidance) makes children stronger and more mature. If children are overprotected from life, they become weak and incapable of forging ahead through the obstacles.
  11. Do not allow your children to slip into selfish behaviors (with their toys, the remote control, etc.). Teach them to be the first to reach out in friendship to other people, to share, etc.

“We honor old age, but not just because a person has lived a long time. Wisdom and righteousness are signs of the maturity that should come with old age” (Wisdom 4:8-9).

If you have more practical tips on how to form children in this virtue, drop us a line and share your thoughts!



PUBLICATION DATE: 2009-10-07


 
 


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