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
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
• 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:
- As parents, be living examples of
maturity. Practicing what we preach and living what we teach
is half of the battle.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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,
“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”
If you have more practical tips on how to
form children in this virtue, drop us a line and
share your thoughts!