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Musings on Maturity: Growing Up and Letting Go

I had a moment of clarity in the Sam's Club parking lot today.

As I approached my car with a shopping cart full of groceries and two toddlers in tow, I noticed a young woman unloading her groceries into the car next to mine. She was well-dressed, with a designer handbag, and seemed in a hurry. I waited for her to finish putting her groceries in the back seat so I could squeeze between the cars and put my kids in their carseats.

After a moment, she closed her car door and began walking her empty shopping cart across the lot. I stepped forward and opened the door to my 15-year-old grocery getter to put the kids in, admiring the young woman's brand new luxury (and carseat-free) crossover. As I buckled in my 1-year-old, the woman returned and stood behind me, anxiously tapping her foot to announce her presence. I paused from buckling the baby, pulled the door in so she could pass by, and said, "Sorry about that." She responded by rolling her eyes, getting into her car, and slamming the door.

Maybe she was having a tough day.

Earlier today at work, a colleague was telling me about his observations when people get married and have kids. "I've seen such a noticeable difference in my friends when they get married, and again when they have kids. It's like they suddenly mature." Yep. I can agree. It's a life-changing experience. But why does it cause someone to mature?

Webster defines maturity as, "the quality or state of being mature; especially: full development." But what is considered full development? What does it really mean to be mature?  

After the woman slammed her car door, it suddenly became clear to me.

Maturity isn't defined by your job title or the car you drive. It's letting go of your own ambitions and becoming selfless in an effort to serve those around you.

Maturity, in its simplest form, is humility.

When the young woman slammed her car door, loudly displaying her impatience with me and my kids, I saw a reflection of myself 10 years ago. 

I was that woman. 

I rolled my eyes at the crying baby in the restaurant.

I got frustrated with the temper-tantrum toddler in the frozen foods aisle.

I snickered when I observed some form of discipline I didn't agree with. 

That was me.  

And to all parents everywhere, I am so sorry! I was terribly rude and inconsiderate. And I had no idea what you were dealing with.

I get it now.   

Now I understand. Experience is the best teacher, and marriage and raising children has taught me so much. Before marriage and kids, I was the center of my universe. I set goals for my life and gave little thought to others. Even after graduating college, I was like a self-centered 2-year-old: "Mine. Mine. Mine."

In every phase of life, we are disciplined to be less selfish:
  • Share your toys with others. Don't be selfish.
  • There's no I in TEAM. Don't be selfish.
  • Help your friends. Don't be selfish.
  • Give 100% at work. Don't be selfish.
  • Love one another. Don't be selfish.
It's almost like this whole maturity process is about growing up and letting go. 

Letting go of selfish ambition. Letting go of the need to get ahead. Letting go of the desire to advance your own agenda.

Maturity is about humbling yourself and putting others first.

That's why grandparents don't really brag about themselves. They brag about their grandkids.

That's why parents post so many pictures of their babies on Facebook. Selfies have been replaced.

That's why people in love show their affection so openly. They've found a joy, a calling, and a responsibility that's greater than themselves. 

As it turns out, maturity doesn't mean you're old and boring. It means you understand one of the deepest truths in life: that you ought to lay aside your own goals, selfishness, and life for the ones you love.

Photo credit: Gillespie's Guide

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