Maturity is sensitivity to human suffering. –Julius Gordon
Greenleaf writes: The most important lesson I have learned about maturity is that the emergence, the full development, of what is uniquely me should be an important concern throughout my entire life. . . This I learned the hard way. There was a long ‘wilderness’ period in which I sought resources outside of myself. . . Good years went by. No answers came back. It took a long time for me to discover that the only real answer to frustration is to concern myself with the drawing forth of what is uniquely me. Only as what is uniquely me emerges do I experience moments of true creativity; moments which, when deeply felt, temper the pain of long periods of frustration that are the common lot of most of us and give me the impulse and the courage to act constructively in the outside world.
Every life, including the most normal of the normal, is a blend of experiences that build ego strength and those that tear it down. As one’s responsibilities widen, these forces become more powerful. As good a definition as I know is that maturity is the capacity to withstand the ego-destroying experiences and not lose one’s perspective in the ego-building experiences. . .
Gentle Reader, what is the most important lesson you have learned about ‘maturity’? For years I thought I could find the answer in books; I used to say, ‘This is the ONE, this one will hold the answer for me!’ It did not; none of them did. What I did learn was that they helped me by stimulating my thinking AND that I had to decide whether I would be responsible and response-able when it came to my own development.
There were several ‘essential life questions’ that have continued to serve me well: Who are You? Who are you choosing to Become? Why are you choosing This Becoming? What are you doing here? Where are you going? Why are you choosing to go there? These are a combination of ‘Being’ and ‘Doing’ questions. Too often in my life I have spent more time with the ‘Being’ questions. My challenge has been to find a balance. As Greenleaf noted, whatever our ‘maturity-challenge’ is, it is a life-long challenge.
Greenleaf offers us his definition of maturity. Gentle reader, what is your definition of maturity? For me, being mature means that I embrace being responsible and being response-able for two relationships. The first is the relationship I have with myself – at my most mature I am a living paradox. I am good and evil, I am virtue and vice, I am light and darkness and I nurture and deplete both polarities. When I am the healthiest I am nurturing the good, the virtues, and the light and I am depleting the evil, the vice, and the darkness. I accept that I am unconditionally responsible and response-able.
The second is the relationship I have with the other(s). How do I approach and then engage each relationship? Am I able to care for and be empathetic toward each person I meet simply because they are also living paradoxes and because as human beings they need me to be caring and empathetic? I have never met an ‘evil’ person – others say they have. Yet when I think of someone being evil I pause and recall Terry Anderson’s powerful poem, ‘Satan’ and then. . . And then, I take a deep, slow breath.
Avoiding maturity is…for many…a life’s work. –Michael Leunig