All too often, the two are used interchangeably while there is a huge difference between growing up and maturing! Growing up, simply put, means aging. The process of growing in age from day to day, month to month or year to year. Growing up, in itself, does not necessarily mean than an individual has added to their knowledge, aspirations, goals, perceptions, character, personality or anything else! Maturing, on the other hand, signifies personal growth and development in body and mind.
Yes, growing up should, in theory, imply maturity as well but I have found the case to be different on numerous occasions. And they weren’t just random occasions here and there, there’s a substantial number out there, which is actually very sad to see. I have seen 20-year-olds who are more mature than 50-year-olds. I have seen uneducated people who are more mature than highly-educated ones. I have seen single people who never traveled more mature than mothers who have traveled and live abroad. I have even seen the same individual become less mature with time! If you think about it, it’s really fascinating that such a phenomenon exists, defying all logic.
So, what should growing up really mean? Well, it should be synonymous with maturing. But what does being mature entail? In my opinion, it’s the little things that show how mature you are. Like how you deal with certain situations, how you perceive certain things, how you interpret certain events in life, etc. Here are a few points that I use to ascertain maturity, whether in myself or others. It is by no means comprehensive, and I do tweak it when applying it to one individual versus another but, as a framework, it works beautifully every time!
1- Know where you stand in life. Have defined dreams and goals that you can work towards attaining.
2- Know your worth and know that it is not defined by what others think.
3- How do you treat those who have done something unforgivable? An immature person will tell them off. A mature person will show them the exit door from his life.
4- How do you react to unpleasant situations? An immature person will either lash out or whine. A mature person will either let it pass or respond accordingly without blowing things out of proportion or overreacting.
5- How do you treat those who wronged you? An immature person will either throw false blame or lash out. A mature person will be patient and try to understand why what happened did happen and either explain things to make them clear or let the whole thing go.
6- Know yourself. What you want or don’t want. What you care about or don’t care about. What is important to you and what isn’t.
7- Know when to let go. Whether it’s of the past, a current situation or relationship, an unattainable dream or a friend. Knowing when to let go is a sign that you are mature, know what you want and are in control of your life. Knowing who to keep in your life and who not to keep is a sign that you are aware of your surroundings and have enough self-confidence to not fear loss.
8- Do you make up your mind on issues that matter or do you let the media and other outlets make up your mind for you? Do you hate a certain group because you believe they are terrorists although you have never done any research on the subject? Do you believe that all women of a certain race are gold diggers although you have never met one yourself? Do you believe that all members of a political party are idiots although you’ve never had a political discussion with one of them?
9- Know the worth of others in your life. Are your friends important enough to keep or can you lose them over disagreements such as those concerning politics or religious issues? Is your partner important enough to you or can you lose him/her over a dumb argument? If others have chosen to have you in their lives and you don’t appreciate that then it tells a great deal about you.
10- How do you spend your money? Do you save a certain sum? Do you blow it all off on stuff you want rather than need? Do you pay off debt first and then indulge or does it not matter? Dealing wisely with finances is one of the strongest signs of maturity.
11- How do you spend your free time? Do you read books or play video games? Do you go running or do drugs? Do you travel or do you lay on a couch and watch mindless TV? Not everything you do with your free time has to be intellectual. But it should be useful and add to your personal growth one way or another, no matter how small.
12- How much control do you relinquish to others? An immature person is easily swayed by what others tell them or even impost on them. A mature person knows that they are in control of their own lives and only those important to them have an advisory role in their lives, no less and no more. They are in full control and never relinquish any of it to another soul.
13- Do you express your feelings or do you bottle them in out of embarrassment. It’s some people’s nature to bottle in feelings, and that is fine, but if you do so out of embarrassment then it’s a sign of incomplete maturity. You should be secure enough to know that you are entitled to your feelings and that there is nothing wrong with expressing them openly.
14- How do you treat the weak and less fortunate? Do you lend a helping hand or make fun of them? Do you understand that their struggle is much more profound than yours or do you ridicule what they have to face on a daily basis in life? Do you understand how substantial your kindness towards them is, if even by smiling at them, or do you treat them as if they were invisible?
15- How do you use your knowledge? Do you try to pass it on to someone else if you could or do you just keep it for yourself? Do you use it for good or evil? Do you help others using your knowledge or not use it at all?
16- How do you treat those who you will not benefit from financially, socially or professionally? The bus driver, janitor, cab driver, waitress, doorman, nurse, etc. If you treat them the way you wish to be treated then you are mature. If you treat them as if they would not make a difference in this world if they just happened to disappear than you are immature and, sorry to add, a selfish child who needs a lesson in respect!
17- How do you treat your parents? I don’t care if you are 17 or 67, your parents are your parents. They sacrificed a lot, dedicated their lives to raising you, tried to give you what they never were able to have. They deserve your respect, gratitude and support.
18- Are you charitable or not? It doesn’t have to be through giving money. In Islam, even a smile is charity. You can help others by being there for them, listening to them, lending a helping hand, removing harm from the road, counseling, advising, giving food, giving shelter, helping someone find a job, etc. There are a multitude of ways to give back. Only a mature person realizes the importance of such an act and knows that we are not on this Earth forever so doing good is a must.
19- How do you deal with loss? Whether it be someone who died, someone who shut you out or someone that you let go of. The way you deal with loss could be through regret, guilt or anger if you are immature. If you are mature it could be with patience, understanding and forgiveness.
20- How do you perceive calamities? Are they another way the world is against you or are they a wake up call? Are they one more unlucky event in your highly unlucky life or are they an opportunity to repent or get closer to God? Are they something bad that always happens to you in particular of all people or are they a way for you to become a better person?
21- Be able to make yourself happy! Don’t always depend on others regarding your happiness. I know it’s easier said than done but I used to depend on the people I love for happiness, throughout the years I have trained myself to have my happiness depend on me rather than others. Of course, I am not 100% in control yet, and may never be, but at least no one has the whole set of keys to my heart’s happiness anymore.
22- Do you give credit where credit is due no matter how you feel about the individual in question? Giving credit to or showing gratitude for someone that you actually dislike or even detest takes a lot of courage, strength and maturity.
Finally, I’d like to add that if you believe that you are immature, don’t pretend to be otherwise because others will very easily see through you. It’s better to admit it to yourself and work on it. And if you happen to be married or are in a relationship where having children is a possibility, please do not bring children into this world until you yourself have grown up and matured! That’s not for your sake or that of society even, it’s for that child’s sake. The more mature you are, the more you will be able to guide your child and be there for them and protect them. So please, put that in mind before you do the closest person to your heart the gravest injustice.