What does it mean to be mature?

Agata Rottkamp asks, “Are you an adult?”:

If numbers and measurements yield no definitive answers, we must ask a more fundamental question—the very one we want to wrestle with in this and the three subsequent issues of Humanum: what does it mean to be an adult? What does it mean to be mature—to be fully alive?

A troubling new trend suggests that instead of being an adult, it is sufficient to “adult” when necessary—that is, to undertake the things that responsible adults do: pay the bills, clean one’s apartment, control one’s temper, etc. Once the often unpleasant tasks have been accomplished, the role of adult can be cast aside, to be reassumed at a later time. By this logic, however, one could go through life without ever reaching adulthood per se, without giving up “childish ways”, as St. Paul suggests we must when we mature (cf. 1 Cor 13:11). Acting responsibly, though important, is not therefore definitive when we are speaking of adulthood.

As so often on the Christian journey, the beginnings of an answer to our question can only be discerned when the gaze shifts from the “I” (what I have to do to become independent) to the “thou” and, eventually, the “Thou.” Adulthood means no longer having the self as one’s sole focus. The ability to put the other first, selflessly, if not without effort, may be a more defining trait of human maturity. “Now [as one matures] the person is able to give himself to the other,” Fr. Jose Granados tells us, “to abandon the sphere of the isolated individual around which the feelings tend to circle…in such a way that the individual is no longer the center of the relationship but lives…out of himself and, only in this way, becomes fully himself.” …

In a clear and definitive tone, the Baltimore Catechism tells us that God made us to know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world; and to be happy with Him forever in the next. If this is our intended telos, then surely human maturity—that is, adulthood—must take up the tasks of knowing, loving and serving God in a way that corresponds to a given individual’s abilities and situation. And when carried out perfectly, these tasks—this full flowering of humanity—become holiness.

Adulthood and the “full flowering” of one’s masculinity or femininity…

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