shutterstock_399109597When you are young, people tell you how much you are growing up. They meet you as a child, then again in adolescence, and again as a young adult. Each time, they comment on how much you change.

When you get to a certain age, people expect you to be grown-up. No one  knows what that means (and it is irrelevant what they think it means). However, some people get stuck in adolescence. They are in the mid-30’s and acting like 16 years old.

So how do you know your growing up?

We usually measure growth with metrics. A simple calendar marks the passage of years. Marks on a door frame chronicle childhood growth. Complicated tests of intelligence, aptitude, and psychological traits place you on a predetermined scale. Those measure progress in formal ways, but maturity ‘s hard to chart. Some people grow old (or grow tall) but still become mature.

The apostle Paul noted, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”  Maturity is the ability to put away childish things for adult things.

Those who do mature well take on three traits.

They accept people are different. Youthful narcissism is filled with the exuberance of life, but also a terrible misconception. We think everyone else feels like we do, thinks like we do, likes the food we like, and listens to the music we like. When you grow up you realize everyone is different and accept that difference as good. You quit placing expectations of others to be like you, and you stop expecting yourself to be like others.

They learn to give not get. Most children receive a gift with a stinger attached. Parents shower them with an inordinate amount of attention. Parents clap for small achievements and pump self-esteem to blimp-sized proportions. That is good as a child but falters under the weight of adulthood.  At some point, you change your perspective from the whole world revolves around you to you are part of a vast universe of something called “others.”  Service to others boomerangs to self-fulfillment. The more you pour yourself out, the fuller you get. Maturity discovers that you only get when you give.

They learn life is never finished. This whole post has been about the “grownup.” The truth is you never completely grow up. You are like all the roads in my town—under construction. The greatest insights in life are yet to discover. Maturing people fill a reservoir out of which they drink in dry times. Read (or as I do, listen to) books. Write, even if it is junk. Take a regular opportunities to reflect on the position and direction of your life and make the course corrections. Take trips and discover. Make new friends. The only one who is finished is the one with a white sheet pulled across their face.

As you examine your life, are you a grown up or is there some growing up you need to do?