HomeOpinion & AnalysisWhat is the hallmark of maturity?

What is the hallmark of maturity?

inspiration:with Cynthia Chirinda

Growing up in the deep rural leafy farming lands of Chivhu, I remember vividly how our elders always hushed us up with some air of mysticism when we walked through the forests as we gathered firewood or when we crossed the rivers walking through dark paths in the evening. They would always chide us for our loudness and endless chatter reminding us to honour and respect the unseen powers that resided in the forests and darkness that had power to steal our words and voices. Enveloped in childhood innocence and my natural African expressive nature I could never wrap my little mind around the cause for this constant rebuke. The instances that we defied this order to observe silence both my cousin and I received unforgettable pull-and-twist ear pinches ever so harshly that we would savour the vibrating heat and temporary deafness which lasted for what seemed like eternity. That managed to keep us silent for a while.

When we arrived home we would be told stories of how people were made to disappear in the deep darkness for saying things that offended “those in the forests and the air” and how others lost their voices forever or lost their minds from foolish chatter. They would often remind us of Boreman the “village madman” who had lost his mind completely because he insulted the unseen in his drunken stupor one day as he walked home from a drinking spree. What I could never understand was why the adults were allowed to continue with their conversations even though it was either in hushed tones or deep guttural tones, yet we were condemned to uphold total silence, a very hard sentence for the expressive bolts of energy that we were.

Responsible speech

As years went by I began to realise that the grace to speak seemed to be easily granted us by the elders as we were now deemed to be “more responsible with our words.” Decades later I realise now that the expectation for responsible speech is placed on every “mature” adult who should be held accountable for the outcome of their words. It was later explained to us that the “silence sentence” was enforced on the children because they tend to be reckless with their speech and are not given to wise, discerning and appropriate words as occasion demands. With more exposure and deeper understanding of how the tangible world interacts with the intangible or unseen realm, I now appreciate the power that words released can yield. But then again, is maturity measured only by age and how we say the things we say?

What is the mark of true maturity?

Like most thought-provoking words, “maturity” is hard to define. The most literal definition is just “how much you act like an adult”. But since adult behaviour varies widely, and we often call some adults “immature”, that’s not very helpful. The most obvious generalisation is that maturity increases with age. During my leadership development sessions, whenever I ask the question relating to the essence of what true maturity is, I often get general responses which suggest that “Maturity is understanding when childish behaviour is inappropriate.” Many dictionaries define maturity as “fully developed” or “ready or ripe”. How do we measure this in human life? A more Aristotelian definition would likely involve two key elements. Firstly, having a strong sense of personal responsibility and taking action to fulfil one’s responsibilities. Secondly, having a sense of socially appropriate behaviour and acting accordingly, where socially appropriate behaviour is consistent with responsible (principled) behaviour. In psychology, maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society one lives in. Adult development and maturity theories include the purpose in life concept, in which maturity emphasises a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality, which contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful. The status of maturity is distinguished by the shift away from reliance on guardianship and the oversight of an adult in decision-making acts. Maturity has different definitions across legal, social, religious, political, sexual, emotional, and intellectual contexts. Where maturity is an earned status that often carries responsibilities, immaturity is then defined in contrast by the absence of serious responsibility.

Can you be taken seriously?

Part of the problem I see is that “maturity” many times translates into “taking yourself seriously” and repressing “insane” behaviour. Having said that, it is important to note that mature people do not lack the ability to have fun – indeed, they should have the most fun because they know how to do so in a considerate and appropriate way. Likewise, they have a well-developed sense of when to be serious and when to be silly — but that doesn’t mean they are always serious. They are not necessarily oriented to work rather than play but they know when to prioritise each. They work hard and they play hard. Some of the most serious, hard-working people are utterly incapable of forming adult relationships, completely inflexible, have no healthy degree of self-awareness, disdain work-life balance, take no time to relax or enjoy life and can be shockingly self-absorbed and cruel.

While older persons are generally perceived as more mature and to possess greater credibility, I have also seen individuals who are advanced in age yet they lack credibility. Looking back now, I realise that because of the way I was socialised by the adults who spoke into my life as a child, I spent most of my childhood aspiring to be perceived or appreciated as an adult whose voice mattered and could be perceived as “mature.” This put a lot of pressure on me to grow and increase in wisdom beyond those of my age. Even though our life experiences and environments tend to affect our levels of maturity, I believe that we need to make individual concerted efforts to invest in personal development so that those who are younger than us can truly look up to us as role models and mentors that they can glean wisdom from.

lCynthia Chirinda is an organisational and personal development consultant, life coach, author and strategist.Her two new additions to the Connection Factor Collection — The Connection Factor for Leaders and The Connection Factor for Women — speak to matters that position organisational leaders and women respectively, to achieve greater levels of success through their strategic connections. Looking at improving your career, personal effectiveness, communication skills, relationships, focus, faith and happiness? Wholeness Incorporated Coaching offers you strategies you can implement today to review your progress and achieve your goals.

E-mail: cynthia@cynthiac.net.in LinkedIn: Cynthia Chirinda. Mobile: +263 717 013 206. Website: www.cynthiac.net.in

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