The Three Elements of Maturity
Spiritual Maturity: Our Spirit – “I Believe”
Spiritual maturity is having a deep understanding of one’s purpose and place in the world, a hierarchy of values to live by, and an ethical code of conduct. Such a person has thought out his or her belief system well, this system is the interior anchor of his or her life, and his or her behavior springs from this center. When acted upon, mature spiritual values will leave the world a better place. They will not enrich themselves to the detriment of others—to do that is immaturity. Spiritually mature people strive to live by their code of ethics, and are not duplicitous in their behavior. They are what they appear to be, and their external life reflects their internal reality. Such a person will not say one thing and then intentionally do another. People who have true spiritual maturity understand that their ethics and belief system might be different from another’s, and are tolerant of this difference. They may share, and even try to persuade another person to their way of thinking, but they ultimately realize we each have the right to have our own beliefs.
Emotional Maturity: Our Body – “I Feel”
Emotional maturity is the capacity to understand one’s internal emotional life, and to be able to differentiate between the multiple jumbled feelings that bubble up within you so you can know what is your “real truth.” This means that people know what they feel and why they feel it, and have the capacity to explain it to themselves and others. They are not a mystery to themselves. They also have the capacity to rise above destructive emotional desires and to be in control of themselves and their behavior. They have the ability to realistically assess their strengths and weakness and have a sense of what they can and cannot do. They do not think more highly of themselves than is realistic, nor do they underestimate who they are and what they can contribute. They have empathy for others, and can listen to and try to understand another’s point of view. They do not insist on having their own way, but are willing to share and compromise when necessary. They try to live out the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” They will not intentionally harm another because they have empathy with humanity. When they see suffering, their hearts will be stirred and they will try to help. Emotional maturity seeks to make the world a better place.
Intellectual Maturity: Our Mind – “I Think”
This is the ability to reason and think clearly. It is the ability to take in information, analyze and make sense of that information, observe reality, and reason objectively. It is the ability to use memory, knowledge, experience, understanding, reasoning, imagination, and judgment to solve problems and adapt to new situations. Ideally, intelligence is used to generate adaptive behaviors and meet goals that move the person towards his or her ultimate goal. True intellectual maturity increases the probability of success, even if full knowledge of a situation cannot be attained. Such intellectual maturity can help someone “case” a situation, think about the different outcomes, and choose the best course of action. If the intellect is functioning in a mature state, it can negotiate with the emotional and spiritual aspects to create a system that is united in its pursuit of a desired goal or outcome.
Love & Family
Few would disagree that one of the most important building blocks of a well-lived life is how you manage your love and family life. If we have success in our careers, attain fame or fortune, but have sacrificed our families, can anything we achieve, or any accolade we receive, ever replace that? I have seen too many men and women pursue careers that leave them little time for themselves, their marriage, or their children.
We are meant for connectedness to give meaning to our lives. The family is the “heartbeat” and center of existence, and the foundation of our society. Almost everything can be delegated in life, but being a parent is not one of these things. That doesn’t mean that both parents cannot work, because the reality in today’s world is that, for the majority of families, it takes two wage earners to care for a family. Children innately recognize whether mom and dad work long hours because they need to provide for rent, food, clothes, health insurance, and the necessities of life, or just because one or both of them are “workaholics.”
There can be no more important arena to practice the principles of Sophrosune than in your family life. If you can build a loving family for your own children, it is a gift for them beyond measure.
At every stage of life, we need some sort of meaningful work to help tell us who we are, and help to define us. Not all of us are lucky enough to have careers that can take us through our entire lives, but we can always find some opportunity for meaningful work. All we have to do is look around and see a need that needs filling that is in alignment with our passions and our skill set, and we can be on the road to finding something bigger than ourselves.
What we do with our time reveals what we value, and what we think is important. By allowing yourself to be challenged and making full use of your capabilities, your creativity will be fostered and you will be given an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Without meaningful work, you can feel adrift and that your life has no meaning or connection with anything outside of yourself.
One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to pour our lives out for a mission we are passionate about. This kind of connectedness creates a sense of purpose and a reason to get up in the morning. It creates energy and sustaining power in our lives. It can help to overcome childhood trauma, as the spirit inside you encourages and moves you forward to something “more.” This spiritual essence that “you are here for a reason” creates the internal nurturance that a good father or mother does with their own child. It helps to create sustaining power, vision, and perseverance. It is never too late to find this inside of oneself. Indeed, we often find out who and what we are in the eyes of other people through finding this calling.
Health & Wellness
You can’t control the genes you inherit, or the occurrence of random events such as lightning strikes, hurricanes, and tornadoes, but you are responsible for what you can control. Being an emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually mature person means that you take responsibility for yourself, and don’t let your emotions drive you to behaviors that can cause you harm. If you face risks to your health and life, you use your intellect to understand where you are vulnerable, and try to do everything possible to maximize your health and not leave it to chance. You do this for yourself and for those you love. This is being mature and responsible.
Self-nurturing is ultimately about finding the “source” from which life springs and being in touch with the ultimate heartbeat of the universe in body, soul, and spirit. We first have to discover it for ourselves, and only then can we fully share it with our families and those around us to make the world a better place for all of us. This means regularly taking time out of the whirlwind of our lives and committing to a lifelong process of growth through self nurturing.
In its highest sense, self-nurturing involves understanding and developing your strengths and addressing your weaknesses in each of the three core components of emotion, intellect, and spirit. There are many distractions in life, and part of our journey is to sort through what clamors for our attention. Ultimately, we need to identify the things that are truly the most important in life so we can become what we have been put on earth to be and to do. There is no greater feeling than knowing you are becoming what you were destined to become, doing what you were put on earth to do, loving your family and friends wisely, and making your corner of the world a better place because you are there.
You cannot borrow or buy a sense of personal destiny and purpose in life. It comes from self-knowledge, self-awareness, and a highly developed interior life based on values and a connection to something higher than oneself. It also takes the daily living out of this knowledge. This, I believe, is the ultimate gift that we give ourselves. This is the divine part of self-nurturing. Spiritual self-nurturing allows you to become at home in your own body, have a deep sense of who you are and why you are here, and enables you to live with purpose and meaning that emanates from the core of your being. Buddhists call it “dharma,” and Christians call it a renewed and transformed mind.
Friends & Community
All of us have an innate need to find connection with others around common interests. This adds joy and growth to our own lives. Making an investment in someone else’s life introduces us to their world, their experiences, and their problems; widens our own personal world and perspective; and makes us better people. We become greater in spirit and imagination because of the connection. A good friend is there to share the joys and happy times, and also is there to abide with you during the hard times of life, when you can’t make it alone. When we have close friends, it can help us put our own lives in perspective. Too often, when we only superficially know people, we feel like they “have it made.” We think they have perfect children, a perfect job, a perfect marriage, even perfect pets. However, when we really know people we discover they are human just like us. Realizing they have problems with their children, jobs, marriages, and pets helps to give us a more realistic picture of our own life. We are all unhappy to the extent that our “expectations” are never met. It is vital that, through observing and knowing others, we find out that our own life is not so bad, and that we truly understand that life goes up and down for every one of us, and that no one escapes harsh realities.
Finances & Wealth
We are what we repeatedly do, not what we say, or what our best intentions may be. That is most clearly illustrated in how we obtain and spend our money. Unless we really consider this part of our life, society will tell us what we should value and do with our money. Newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and television are filled with pictures of the “good life” that is ours for the taking. And there is a bank somewhere who is ready to loan us the money, even if we can’t afford it.
Left unexamined, our society, cultural norms, and advertisers will establish the values “of what’s important,” and will become the yardstick of the “best and most acceptable” ways to use and spend money. The result is that if we have not clearly thought out what money means to us and what is important in life, we are in danger of being led astray by our own greed, vices, and weaknesses (which we all have!). Even the best of us may fall prey to, and become undone by, our own self-destructive tendencies where money is concerned.
Play & Recreation
What does your idea of play and recreation reveal about you?
For most of us, our recreational time is very valuable because it gives us time to indulge in our favorite activities and spend it with the people we most value. Seeing how someone “plays” and who they “play with” tells you a lot about who they are, their values, and what they feel is important in life. It reveals how they get energized and emotionally fed.
There is a “dark side” of play (addictions, pornography, gambling, affairs) and also a “Radiant side” of play, where you use your talents, money and time to give back to make the world a better place.
Your level of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual maturity is revealed in every block of the house of your life, but none is more revealing of who you are than how you choose to use your free time, and in how you play and have fun in life.
Legacy & Contribution
It is never too late to start thinking about the legacy you will leave behind and to begin living with greater intentionality.
Every plan begins with a vision. Without a vision, you leave life to chance. The vision leads to the plan. The plan leads to action and accountability, and this leads to results that become visible in your life. The Bible tells us that “without a vision the people perish.” And so it is with us. This kind of vision of life leads to determination, and is acted out with your hands, feet, and heart as you seek to live by the principles in your life. It is marked by a sense of duty, steadfastness, self-discipline, and hard work. You do it when you feel like it, and you do it when you don’t. It’s that simple and that hard.
Nothing worth having is done overnight. Maturity and wisdom don’t come in a microwave pack or in a credit card application. They come with struggles, setbacks, and trying again and again until you begin to get it right. This kind of discipline creates courage, steadfastness, strength, and results. When these results occur, it creates people with a strong sense of their true north and a compass to guide them. They most often leave a legacy and music for those who come after them. We each have personal choices in how to live life. Consciously or unconsciously, we help compose the music of our own lives that lives on after we are gone.