A few years ago, I heard three statements that got my attention:
Mature people can disagree without being disagreeable.
Mature people can learn to have unity without uniformity.
Mature people can walk hand in hand without seeing eye to eye.
The immediate question for me at the time was this. Am I mature? There are many measurements and types of maturity. Physical, emotional and spiritual are three areas that immediately come to mind. And, the three statements above speak to a combination: Relational maturity, emotional maturity and spiritual maturity.
Could we agree that our nation is demonstrating a boatload of immaturity right now? From side to side, top to bottom, there are plenty of examples where people aren’t just disagreeing on issues and solutions to the issues we face, they are just plain disagreeable. It’s evident if you are on social media, watching the news, or in conversation. Maturity is scarce.
There’s no way to cover all aspects of developing maturity in all of these areas in this short writing. Becoming mature is actually a life-long journey of intentionality. However, as with anything else, we have to start somewhere. Let me offer three tools that are helping me along the pathway to maturity.
LISTEN WELL — When I was getting my undergraduate degree in social work, I remember repeated exercises on “active listening.” Even though those classes were decades ago, I remember phrases such as, “Help me to understand…,” “What I hear you saying is…” and more. We were coached on body language and self-awareness. Listening well, takes a lot of effort. There are habits to break if we grew up in an environment where interrupting others was the norm. And on top of it, we can listen faster than most people can speak. In that time gap, we are often formulating our rebuttal as the other person speaks instead of intently trying to understand the heart, the emotion and the true meaning behind their words. Even on the national scene right now with all of the intense conversations about race relations and the use of force by police, what if we were as passionate about feeling someone else’s pain or hearing their fears as much as we are about being right and giving our opinion? What if someone actually sat down with a cop or their spouse and children and listened carefully? I’ve been trying to listen as a long-time police chaplain. And in an area I haven’t listened as well, I’ve scheduled a lunch with a black leader in our community to just listen to his story. And I’ve asked him for his counsel on what I as a white leader can do that might be helpful right now. Listening without defending is always crucial.
SPEAK CAREFULLY — Our words have the power of life or death. We must install speed bumps between our brain and our mouths. We don’t make the world brighter by blowing out everyone else’s candle. This Biblical advice is golden. “Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.” (James 1:19-20 The Message). And guess what else I’ve been learning. I really don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to. Many times I choose not to speak if I’ve carefully considered all of those who might be listening and I’ve determined that what I have to say may do more harm than good.
CHECK YOUR HEART — Jesus spoke this truth: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT). Our words always reveal what is inside. Almost nothing I’ve ever done out of raw, unfiltered emotion turned out well. The concept of ‘’following your heart” is well-intended but hogwash. Following your heart lands you in the ditch. Listening to your heart, being aware of your emotions, taking your own feelings into account as reference points…yes. But just reacting is rarely good. If you’re in the hospital and you hear the nurses say, “he’s having a reaction to the medicine,” that’s not good. But if you hear, “he’s responding to the medication,” you probably feel better. Reacting is usually from the heart. Responding involves the head and the heart. Check your heart.
God’s primary work is transforming hearts. But God isn’t a bully. He only transforms people who invite Him to do that. And God will help us with developing the kind of heart that wants to listen better and to speak more carefully. I’m living proof of His guidance, help, and transformative power on my road toward maturity. I’m grateful.
QUESTION: Which of the three tools toward maturity is most natural and easiest for you? Which one is harder? I’d love to have you Comment below.