Do you know ways to move forward on the path to emotional maturity in adults? I am going to share some of them in this article.
Have you ever seen a foal, or a calf being born? If you have not seen it in person, maybe you have seen it on the Discovery Channel. It usually takes place in an open field or a stable. The mother does not need emotional maturity in adults. She does have to go to the hospital so that her baby can be born in the hands of a doctor. She does not have an operating table when she gives birth, nobody helps her, and she manages to give birth just through her instincts.
Almost immediately, when the creature is born, it struggles to stand on all fours. Its legs shake, but it manages to continue. No one teaches it how to walk, and it does not have to wait a whole year to learn how to do it. It just happens minutes right after being born. No one teaches it where it must go to get food or how to survive, either. It all happens by instinct.
Emotional maturity in adults
When we were born, it was all very different. How I would have liked to run just right after being born! How I would have liked to have known how to defend myself without depending on my mother! Or how I would have liked to have learned how to relate to others without my parents’ help! None of this happened the way it does for many animals. But animals do not have what we have, a mind. That mind we have contains 100 billion neurons and the ability to store information like no other computer in the world.
But there is a problem. The use of a child’s mind will depend on his/her development. The child needs to learn throughout his/her life how to use his/her mind and how to develop it. And, through his/her parents and school’s influence, that child will grow to use the most important organ of the human body powerfully. Each time the child memorizes something, new neurons are formed.
Human beings are completely controlled by the mind. All of our actions, whether good or bad, originate in the mind. It is the mind who worships God and bonds us with heavenly beings… All the physical organs are servants of the mind, and nerves are the messengers who transmit orders to every part of the body to direct the movements of the living machine…
(Mind, Character and Personality, p. 409)
Emotional maturity in adults reflects in managing emotions
One of the main functions of the mind is managing emotions. Emotions are cognitive and psychological reactions to different experiences we have in life. Just as the mind is developed and grows, the human being must learn how to manage emotions so that emotional maturity can be reached.
The problem is that emotional maturity does not always correspond to the chronological age of the human being (chronological age is a way to measure the time a person has lived). I am 52 years old, and that is my chronological age. My chronological and emotional age could not be at the same level. I could be 52 years old but be an emotional child, as chronological and emotional age do not always go together. And if I have not grown emotionally at my age, then, I could be an emotionally ill adult.
The emotionally ill adult
I like how Peter Scazzero develops this concept in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader. He asks, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of an emotionally ill adult?
- Emotional and spiritual deficit that causes an impact in all aspects of his/her life. Those emotional deficits are mainly manifested through a generalized lack of sensibility.
- Emotional ill adults are involved in more activities than their spiritual, physical, and emotional reserves combined can support. They give more than they receive.
Characteristics of an emotionally ill adult
It is said that an adult is emotionally ill when he/she:
- Has low levels of self-awareness
- Does not pay attention to the emotions his/her body might be sending him/her
- Does not pay attention to his/her family
- Is unable to read his/her emotional world and those of others
- Gives priority to work, studies, tasks, etc., rather than marriage and singleness
- Does not have a vision of his/her marriage or singleness as the greatest gift he/she has
- Makes decisions without thinking about their impact on his/her marriage or singleness
- Overflows chronically by always being occupied in God’s service or serving others and neglects his/her relationship with them
- Lives without boundaries
- Lacks rhythm between his/her job and resting
Emotional maturity in adults
Emotional maturity is not something that comes automatically through the years, it is not something you learn in school. It is something learned in our own homes, even before turning one year old. The emotional dynamics you have in your life are the same ones that have run in your family for generations.
You might be on the same level of emotional maturity as your parents were. You can probably not grow beyond the point your parents reached because they were the first role models and instructors you had to learn how to express your emotions unless you have managed to break the emotional pattern that existed in your family.
Adults whose level of emotional maturity is very low are called “emotional babies” and have the following characteristics:
- They seek others who can take care of them
- They find it very difficult to enter other people’s world
- Emotional babies are driven by the need for gratification
- They use others as objects to meet their own needs
Adults whose level of emotional maturity is low are called “emotional children” and have the following characteristics:
- Their true emotional maturity level is shown quickly when under pressure, disappointment, and in trouble
- They interpret disagreements as personal offenses. They feel hurt very easily
- Emotional adults complain, withdraw, manipulate, take revenge, and are sarcastic when they do not get what they want
- They find it very difficult to talk calmly, nicely, and maturely about their needs and things they desire
There are also adults whose level of emotional maturity is medium, and they are called “emotional teenagers” and have the following characteristics:
- They tend to show defensiveness
- They keep score of what they have given so that later they can get something in return
- Emotional adults deal poorly with conflicts, generally blaming it on others, appeasing, going to a third person, frowning their faces, or ignoring the topic completely
- They care only about themselves
- They find it difficult to truly listen to the pain, disappointment, or needs of those around them
- Besides, they are critical and judgmental
When people reach a high level of emotional maturity in adults, they are called “emotional adults,” since they have achieved full emotional maturity. Their characteristics are:
- They can ask for what they need, want, or prefer in a clear, direct, and honest way
- They acknowledge, control, and assume accountability for their thoughts and feelings
- Emotional adults can, even under pressure, affirm their own beliefs and values without being adverse
- They respect others without changing them
- They give people room for mistakes and recognize that they are not perfect
- Emotional adults appreciate people just the way they are, good and bad people, and not for what they receive in exchange
- They evaluate their limits, strengths, and weaknesses with precision and are capable of discussing them freely with others
- They are satisfied and happy when they receive what they want
- besides, they are deeply in harmony with their emotional world and are capable of entering other people’s feelings, needs, and concerns without losing themselves
- Also, they can solve a conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider other people’s perspectives
So far, I have shown that our emotional maturity in adults is not linked to our chronological age, but connected to our spiritual maturity.
Spiritual and emotional maturity in adults
I was unaware of this reality for many years. I thought that my emotional maturity had nothing to do with my spiritual maturity, and that I could grow spiritually without having to consider my emotions. Furthermore, I also thought that emotions were merely a part of the human body and that there was nothing we could do to learn how to express them correctly.
When I started to develop as a church leader, I remember that I tried to stay connected with God, to build my intimacy with Him. But, when it came to expressing my emotions and relating to others, I had serious problems. I expected people to have the same level of commitment I had. I
f people did not fulfill their commitments, they would have had to listen to my reprimand. I put them on my blacklist and disconnected them from that person. I almost got an ulcer from living this way, until God showed me how wrong I had been throughout my whole life.
Certainly, we cannot walk through life being emotional babies or teenagers who are upset about everything that happens around them or other people’s actions. We must grow in our emotional maturity, which will also lead us to reach spiritual maturity with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we reach the maturity of an “emotional adult,” we can have a full and happy life, with relationships based on respect, consideration, and empathy for others.
Let’s work for emotional maturity in adults
I invite you today to take the initiative to walk the path to emotional and spiritual maturity. Decide to see others through the eyes of love, respect, thoughtfulness, and empathy. But do not forget to see yourself through those same eyes because we tend to neglect our inner world. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you keep growing emotionally and spiritually. Read God’s Word and you will find many life lessons that will enrich your inner world.
Do you know any other ways to move forward on the path to emotional maturity in adults? Share it with us in the comments section. So, we can help others continue growing emotionally and spiritually.