Maturity and Responsibility

“Maturity”

On a surprise birthday celebration for my youngest brother last Saturday, his friends spoke about it as they described him and gave their birthday messages. Later that day, we had a family Bible study on the parable of the fig tree and touched on the idea of maturity as well. The next day, my dad and I discussed the topic too.

Big word. Relevant topic. But 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.

Then I shared the photo below:

IMG_5196
– David Brooks, The Road to Character

Maturity comes from the word ripe. Meaning there is fruit, and that it is ready to eat, good to nourish and satisfy others.

My best advice to you today is 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 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. It will need those things, sure, but it will need more than just those for 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, things won’t get any easier from hereon. But you can train yourself so that the diligence that is required to develop character and maturity becomes natural. (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 but only becomes more complex. But because he is daily exposed to it and frankly has no choice but to learn it, it also becomes natural eventually. 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.

 

Who I Love, and Love to Spend the Quiet With

I’m composing this as my wife lays in the next room peacefully asleep with our son.

Today seems like a typical Saturday. Breakfast at home, a few errands in the morning, a day out together, podcasts on the road, cuddles in bed, and quick naps in the afternoon.

Except it isn’t a typical Saturday: first, today is a Monday, and second, it’s Krisha’s birthday.

I think about how differently we could be celebrating today. Perhaps a big party, loud surprise, expensive jewelry, and Instagram-worthy wine-and-cheese pairings.

But despite the absence of “big things” that typically accompany huge birthday celebrations, we are happy. In the quietness, we are happy.

Not that my wife wouldn’t have appreciated a big celebration, a vacation at the beach, or a trip outside the country. But I wouldn’t have today any other way. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

I took a day off at work—as I have for all her birthdays since we’ve been together. And my surprise is simply just that: a quiet day to spend time together as a family.

And I’m finding that in the midst of the busyness of everyday life these days, just being with the right person for a day of rest is many times enough to make a man feel wealthy, even without the world’s riches.

To Krisha:
I don’t know how you do it. You are a real wonder woman. Last night, you were on your knees cutting rolls of fabric, folding sheets, and planning deliveries for clients and suppliers—on a Sunday. And you manage to do all this work in your second trimester while gracefully raising Malaya at home. (He got his smarts and good looks from you, I’m sure now).

I love you. And I can’t articulate well enough how grateful I am to have the honor and privilege of marrying you, to serve you, and serve others with you.

I treasure moments like this, and other pockets of quiet in other days, like sitting together while we each silently pore over a book on hand.

Happy birthday, my darling. You are my vacation at sea, my portable peace and quiet, and a constant reminder that God truly is gracious, for I know of nothing I have done (or could ever do) to ever deserve you. I love you.

 

 

How to Persist? Encourage Others

 

One of my tried and tested methods of busting out of really tough days is by deliberately encouraging a friend.

If I am not careful, less-than-ideal days trigger a plunge into unproductive introspection that focuses too much on self than improving the situation.

Before I know it, what could otherwise have been a healthy reflection at day’s end turns into anything but helpful.

Encouraging others in these situations helps here.

There’s something about intentionally looking beyond yourself, and instead looking towards the needs of others that is refreshing.

Three reasons:

1. It’s a more productive use of energy.

There are times when certain difficulties are just simply beyond our control, and fretting over them will only be a waste of energy.
Continue reading “How to Persist? Encourage Others”

Make No Excuses for Bad Behavior

 

There’s been plenty of disciplining my son Malaya recently. As a toddler, he now knows how to express his likes and preferences—which is great in general! This means that he now knows how to say “no”, pick what clothes to wear, and refuse my request for occasional hugs.

But many times, this also means he now knows how to break rules, and willfully disobey his parents.

As I think about our reasons for why we believe disciplining is important for our little boy, I am reminded that they apply to adults too. Two stand out below:

1. There are no excuses for bad behavior.

That includes age, gender, mood, what time of the day it is, and whether you’ve already had breakfast or not.

Whether you’re 40 or 4 years old, bad manners are terrible things to have. Just because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed doesn’t give you a hall pass to be cranky all day. Disobedience is disobedience whether or not the baby has gotten his milk, whether or not the Christian has gotten his prayer request.

Even if a church kid took a toy from Malaya by force, that does not give Malaya an excuse to hit back, be rude, or throw a tantrum.

There are no excuses for bad behavior. Not when you’re a toddler, not when you’re an adult. Proper discipline is a good reminder for that.

2. Temporary pain today is better than deeper pain tomorrow.

Real discipline involves some level of pain. It would not be real discipline if it were not so.

But the pain of a spank in the butt, or a 5-minute time-out is tiny compared to future real-life consequences of bad behavior and poor choices that could be prevented with proper discipline. Because we love our son, we discipline him today even when it might sometimes be painful for him.

For adults, this is akin to delayed gratification. Because I want a better life in the future, I discipline myself today even when it might sometimes be painful for me.

My wife and I are not raising a child; we’re raising an adult. And as he grows we hope for discipline to be part of his life even through adulthood.

Discipline never really leaves you. It just transitions from being externally initiated, to being internally motivated. And people who consciously carry it through become the most productive, high integrity, character-strong, effective adults I know.