On a surprise birthday celebration for my youngest brother last Saturday, his friends kept describing my brother as having this quality as they gave their well wishes. Then later that day, as our family studied the parable of the fig tree, we couldn’t help but touch on the topic of maturity as well.
The topic seems inescapable lately. Maturity. Big word. And a quality that seems more and more of a rarity these days.
And the reason I think partly is that we’ve separated maturity from the idea of taking on responsibility well.
Let me share a message I sent to my brother recently:
Josh, I want to share this with you especially as you approach your birthday and coming from the very good words your friends spoke about you last Saturday.
I shared the photo below:
– David Brooks, The Road to Character
Maturity comes from the word ripe. Meaning there is fruit, ready to eat, and good to nourish and satisfy others.
Today I advice you to take on as much responsibility as you can and commit to daily keeping them through long hard slogs. It will develop your character and make you ready to serve especially when you are launched into the bigger world.
Good friends are good, going to church is good, and being good at school is good. But character and maturity will not be developed by having those alone. Those are necessary things for sure, but it will take more in order for true maturity and character to develop in you.
The most effective people I know have taken upon themselves huge loads of responsibility at a young age (some willingly, some because of ambition, some because of their personality, some because of need—think our parents) and carry this with them when they are old. Develop a strong sense of responsibility at a very young age and you will develop maturity.
Volunteer to take on a project at home. Spot a home improvement you can take ownership of. Be the first to answer the door. Set the table for breakfast every morning—weekends and weekdays. These are just some very simple examples. I guarantee you 90% of your peers at your age are NOT doing any of that. They are too busy becoming “celebrities” wanting to be liked in school, on the Internet, or by the person they like. Focus on growing your inner self. And be driven by a desire to honor God by stewarding well what you’ve been entrusted. You have our support and love.
It’s not going to be easy. In fact, nothing is really easier from hereon. But you can train yourself so that the diligence that is required to develop character and maturity becomes natural to you.
(Think about Malaya. It is easier for a baby to babble than to construct words and form sentences together. Language does not become easier as one grows; it only becomes more complex. But because he is daily exposed to language and frankly has no choice but to learn it, it eventually becomes part of his nature. So it is as you grow up. Things will not get easier, only more complex. But with constant training you will develop stronger social, mental, emotional, and spiritual muscles so that bearing the weight of responsibilities eventually becomes natural too.)
Looking mature is incredibly easy, especially nowadays. Speak a few “words of wisdom”, be inspiring, but still look like you can blend in with the cool kids, take a video of yourself, write a blog, post it online, get huge followers, and voila! now you look mature!
But real maturity is deep and unseen. It is developed with diligence, cultivated over time, and founded on strong character. This is why responsibility is necessary. For without responsibility there is nothing to be diligent for, nothing to be cultivated that spans long and different seasons of pain and disappointment, and nothing that will require the testing of one’s character.