In our society we have a very two dimensional understanding of maturity. Most people define it as an accumulation of experiences that come through the process of aging. But this isn’t really true.
The truth is that maturity has very little to do with our external experiences, and everything to do with our inner processing of the world. Yes, you might have experienced a lot of challenges and hardships in life, but if you weren’t present and aware of what was happening and the way in which it could help you to learn and grow, all of your experiences simply turned into moments where you unconsciously and emotionally reacted, not maturing at all.
While we have no control over aging, we do play a part in our ability to mature. Maturity is something that comes with conscious intent; something that evolves as we become more aware. It isn’t how “knowledgeable” or “smart” we are either, as knowledge is a product of past fears, mental patterns, memories, reactions and illusory concepts of the self.
Instead, true maturity is the state of being internally free enough to respond consciously, to be responsible enough to see the end result our thoughts, feelings and actions and how they will affect ourselves, others and the world at large.
Developing true maturity impacts so many different areas of our lives. Below I elaborate:
1. MATURITY IS COURAGEOUS
Maturity involves inner freedom and freedom is the result of having courage – the courage to think differently and behave differently.
In a society that considers “maturity” as the pursuit of careers, spouses, mortgages, children and materialism, it takes immense courage to truly be mature and to pursue a path with heart, reconnecting with our authentic selves.
2. MATURITY IS HONEST
Many people avoid the truth of who they really are by piling on beliefs, labels and roles in their lives and clinging to them. However, the mature person, in their lifelong pursuit of self-discovery comes to see all the ways in which they deceive themselves into a false sense of being.
Common examples of spiritual immaturity involve avoiding the shadow elements of human nature, believing that we have transcended our “lower selves” and are in touch with our “higher selves” (as if our “lower selves” aren’t as equally part of our wholeness), and confusing the fearful voices of our core wounds with our intuition.
3. MATURITY IS LOVING
Most people’s idea of love is to love only to receive love. “I need you to love me so I can love you back” is not a very mature way of loving. To be mature means that you can love someone unconditionally, even if they don’t love you back because your own self-love is more than enough.
The spiritually mature person loves because the state of love expands their limited sense of self and reconnects them with the divine. They don’t just love to be reassured that they are lovable by another.
And if the other person is mature enough to love back the same way, the love becomes even more powerful.
You’ll often come across people that hold love as the highest possible spiritual form, which it is. But to experience that love you must first have attained the personal freedom and responsibility that is necessary to unconditionally love.
4. MATURITY IS COMPASSIONATE
Many religions will teach you to do “good” out of duty through pity and sympathy (both include feeling sorry for another because they are in a position inferiority to you), as opposed to empathy when you can feel and understand their pain as equals. Many are compassionate also out of the underlying stimulus and promise of “rewards” in the afterlife. However, this is completely destructive and a perfect example of immaturity.
The spiritually mature person doesn’t act from a place of dutifully needing “to do good” which is tainted with all kinds of unconscious desires such as self-gratification, power, prestige and control. To do any mature charitable act, our motivation must come from a place of inner peace and freedom.
5. MATURITY IS FORGIVING
Resenting other people is addictive. It gives us a false sense of power by believing that we are protecting ourselves from getting hurt again, and we are on the “moral high ground.” It tricks us into a unhealthy sense of self-importance; “I’ll never forgive you. What you did to ME was UNFORGIVABLE.” It is yet another way in which our misery and self-pity makes us happy.
True forgiveness, on the other hand, involves taking responsibility for ourselves and making the decision to no longer attempt to justify or attach ourselves to feelings of hatred and anger. We are aware enough to know how damaging such heavy feelings are to us and the quality of our lives.
6. MATURITY IS ACCEPTING
Maturity involves knowing what you can change and accepting that which you can’t. A person who lives in a constant state of conflict with the world is one who is enslaved to their own internal reactions. They are not free to respond.
I am often confronted by people who ask me how I can be so at peace with the state of affairs in the world; the injustice, the chaos, the inequality that saddens them to the point of depression or feeling like their sensitive natures don’t belong to this world.
This is closely tied with the forgiveness I mentioned above. I’m not OK with the injustice of the world, but I don’t resist it either. I’m aware enough to realize that change can never, and has never, come from an external system, but from an individual internal decision. To be able to help the collective maturity evolve I must first be able to accept and acknowledge the mess that we are in without resisting it and running away into my self-righteous ideals, without judging it and condemning others so as to make them defensive and lose receptivity to my message.
You can’t cure the turmoil of the world when you’re acting from a place of inner turmoil. The acceptance of yourself and acceptance of others is like learning how to flow in a stream without ending up like another solid pebble at the bottom of the river.
The awakening of maturity is the beginning of the process of inner blossoming; it is the beginning of the journey toward the fulfillment of your own potential. Coming to truly know that potential means knowing that you require equal part sun as you do soil in order to be grounded, but to dance in the wind as well.