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Growing Old and Growing Up

by on December 9, 2013



“You have to get old. You do not have to grow up.” This quaint quip tells an all-too-common story. If children do not grow physically, we quickly seek medical attention to find out what is wrong. Many people, however, do not grow emotionally and their lack of progress is ignored.


Physical growth is easy to monitor. Adults grow physically and so we can compare the relative growth of a child to an adult and tell if growth is happening or not.


Emotional growth is more difficult to monitor. Many adults are not emotionally healthy. So, it is difficult to determine the emotional health of a young person by comparing them to an adult. In other words, there is no standard by which to measure emotional health since no such standard exists and since adults vary greatly in their levels of emotional health.


Behaviors are the common indication of emotional health. The outward behavior indicates the level of emotional health of the person. Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality explains several categories of emotional development. Following excerpts are derived from his lists.


Emotional Infants

  • Want others to take care of them
  • Have great difficulty entering into the world of other people
  • Are driven by need for instant gratification
  • Use others to meet their needs


Emotional Children

  • Content and happy as along as they get what they want
  • Unravel quickly from stress, disappointments, trials
  • Interpret disagreements as personal offenses
  • Are easily hurt
  • Complain, withdraw, manipulate, take revenge
  • Become sarcastic when they do not get their way
  • Do not discuss needs and wants in mature, loving ways


Emotional Adolescents

  • Tend to be defensive
  • Threatened and alarmed by criticism
  • Keep score of what they give and ask for something in return
  • Deal poorly with conflict, blame, go to a third party, pout, ignore issue
  • Preoccupied with themselves
  • Do not truly listen to other’s pain or needs
  • Critical and judgmental


Emotional Adults

  • Are clear, direct, honest in expression needs and wants
  • Recognize, manage and take responsibility for their thoughts and feelings
  • Can state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial
  • Respect others without trying to change them
  • Make room for others to make mistakes and not be perfect
  • Appreciate people for who they are – not for what they give back
  • Accurately assess their own limits, strengths and weaknesses
  • Are in tune with their own emotional world
  • Are able to enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of other
  • Are able to maintain their personal identity while helping others
  • Can resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions useful to all


So, you have to get old and you will grow physically. You do not have to grow up emotionally. So very many “grown-up” people are emotional infants and children. They have never grown up emotionally. They are underdeveloped. Many times they had no good role models to follow.


Parents, teachers, church leaders, business people frequently have not developed into emotionally mature people. This means that they can not pass on emotional health to others. Their stilted development produces similar negative traits in those they lead.


This situation seems to have no obvious resolution. Wealthy and powerful people control the society. Never having grown up, they pass on their harmful traits and prevent healthy emotional development in others.


God has and is the only answer. We are called to be His servants. Servants meet the needs of others. Only emotionally healthy Christian adults can truly be servants. Servants think of the needs of others. Servants rejoice in bringing joy to other’s lives. Servants are expendable. Servants are unoffendable.  They joy in being used to bless those around them. They are not offended that they are considered servants.


Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalms 119:165


Are you an emotionally healthy person or, do you fit in one of the above unhealthy categories? Chose God today. You can grow up: emotionally and Spiritually. Read the Word of God. Believe it and obey it. Be a servant of God to others. Associate with emotionally and Spiritually mature believers. They are waiting for you. God is waiting for you too.

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