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Maturity is that process we all go through but also resist. We want the benefits of maturity but not the required labor. The good news is that the sooner you start the process, the less work you have to do later in life.
Start children off on the way they should go,Proverbs 22:6 NIV
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
This proverb is stated in the positive, but it can be equally true for the negative. Whatever we learn early in life, even if negative, can be extremely difficult to change. That’s because whatever we experience early and regularly becomes normal. In this context, normal is like cement. It’s not indestructible, but it takes a lot of work to remove and replace it.
God places in our hearts a desire for meaning and purpose. We can look at life and draw conclusions and form understandings. Inevitably, we will have the opportunity to realize we have developed a distorted worldview. Then, even if it would result in a better, more true worldview, we’d still rather not go through the disorientation of blowing up our old one. So we can stubbornly resist change which is only good if we got it right the first time.
Maturity Requires Love and Discipline
God creates each person with a unique identity. We start with this potential predetermined. But a person’s environment can confuse or conceal a person’s true identity. You can think you are one way (such as worthless), but in reality, you are not (you are valuable).
Parents have a significant degree of influence over their children. There are many different skills needed to be good at parenting, but we will only look at love and expectations. Love can also be the quality of a relationship. Expectations can also be the degree of discipline.
If love and discipline can take on values of low or high, this simplifies parenting styles into 4 categories:
- Low Love and Low Discipline = Neglectful Parenting
- High Love and Low Discipline = Indulgent Parenting
- Low Love and High Discipline = Performance Parenting
- High Love and High Discipline = Optimal Parenting
Each parenting style will tend to create a particular worldview:
- Neglectful Parenting -> Lost Child
- Indulgent Parenting -> Spoiled Child
- Performance Parenting -> Perfectionistic Child
- Optimal Parenting -> Mature Child
If you are reading this, chances are you are already an adult. The cement probably dried a long time ago. But it’s never too late to improve upon your worldview. What will it take to see significant improvement?
Maturity for the Lost
Someone who has experienced little love (grace, nurture, encouragement, support) and little discipline (correction, structure, firm boundaries) can feel lost. So much is missing that is essential to understanding the person’s God-given identity.
The message parents send: Figure out life on your own.
These people need more love initially and then need to have discipline gradually introduced.
Maturity for the Spoiled
Someone who has experienced a good amount of nurture, but little discipline can feel entitled. This person’s worldview could be something like: So far, everyone has made life too easy, so why shouldn’t it continue that way?
The message parents send: You don’t have to pull any weight. I’ll do it for you.
These people need to learn that God designed them to carry their own weight and also to help others who genuinely need help.
Maturity for the Perfectionistic
Someone who has experienced a good amount of discipline, but little nurture can come to believe self-worth is based on performance. This person’s worldview could be something like: I am only valuable when I perform exceptionally well on my responsibilities.
The message parents send: Pull your weight and everybody else’s too.
These people need to learn that God never meant for them to over-extend themselves.
Maturity for the Mature
Someone who has experienced a good amount of nurture and discipline is probably relatively mature. This person’s worldview is likely positive and balanced: I can love myself and love others, even if it means some suffering on my part.
The message parents send: Pull the weight you were designed to pull.
Hopefully, you can see that only Jesus is able to fully love Himself, God, and others. No parent is perfect. Jesus didn’t have perfect earthly parents, but He did have a complete connection with God.
You can’t be perfect, but you can mature over time and follow God’s calling to be more like Jesus.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.