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What is a Grown-Up?


I had an exchange the other day in the grocery with another customer. I was pulling out my credit card to pay for my purchase when I noticed a man in his fifties or sixties standing about three feet behind me and to my left. Since there was no reason for him to be standing there, and since I didn't want him to see my credit card number, I asked in a calm voice if he would mind stepping back. If I had been asked that question, I would have responded with "sorry", and I would have stepped back. This man however, proceeded to angrily proclaim that he was not a thief. My response was, "Well, then you won't mind stepping back." Not only did he not step back, he continued with an angry monologue in my direction while I ignored him, paid for my purchase, accepted the receipt, and walked out the door.

This fifty-ish or sixty-ish man was a child in a grown-up's body. Unfortunately, there are many children in grown-up's bodies living among us. They are not hard to identify.

Many people are confused about what maturity means. While a fully mature human being may not exist, there are guidelines that can be used to identify one who is more mature. Psychologists use the term "individuated" to describe someone who has reached a certain level of maturity. One website gives some characteristics of those who are far along in the individuation process:

"Besides achieving physical and mental health, people who have advanced towards individuation, they tend to become harmonious, mature, responsible, they promote freedom and justice and have a good understanding about the workings of human nature and the universe."

Here is a list of the characteristics that I associate with a mature person:

It is easy to see that, according to this list, not many of us are grown-ups. But, as the Chinese proverb says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."



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