Age alone does not an adult make. But what does? What makes you finally, really an adult? Adulthood is a social construct. For that matter, so is childhood. But like all social constructs, they have real consequences. They determine who is legally responsible for their actions and who is not, what roles people are allowed to assume in society, how people view each other, and how they view themselves. But even in the realms where it should be easiest to define the difference—law, physical development—adulthood defies simplicity.
You can’t drink until you are 21, but legal adulthood, along with voting and the ability to join the army, comes at age 18. Or does it? You’re allowed to watch adult movies at 17. In many countries kids can hold a job as young as 14, depending on state restrictions, and are even allowed to deliver newspapers, babysit, or work for their parents even younger than that.
Chronological age is not a particularly good indicator [of maturity], but it’s something we need to do for practical purposes. We all know people who are 21 or 22 years old who are very wise and mature, but we also know people who are very immature and very reckless. We’re not going to start giving people maturity tests to decide whether they can buy alcohol or not.
There is definitely no certain age at which maturity sets in. In my personal experiences, I’ve observed that age has little or nothing to do with it. I have met young people who are mature well beyond their years, and I’ve known older folks who act childish, only thinking about themselves. So the question is: What are the character traits that show maturity? And do “mature” people exhibit them 100% of the time?
Well, I’m not sure that we can be mature in every situation that presents itself to us because we are always growing and learning as human beings, and I’m pretty sure that all of us have been guilty of at least some of these negative behaviors at least once in our lives. That being said, by considering these 25 tell-tale signs, perhaps we can be more aware of the interludes in which our whiny, complaining, adolescent self rears its immature head…
1. Realizing how much you don’t know.
2. Listening more and talking less.
3. Being aware and considerate of others as opposed to being self-absorbed, self-centered, and inconsiderate.
4. Not taking everything personally, getting easily offended, or feeling the need to defend, prove, or make excuses for yourself.
5. Being grateful and gracious, not complaining.
6. Taking responsibility for your own health and happiness, not relying on others to “fix” you or placing blame for your circumstances.
7. Having forgiveness and compassion for yourself and others.
8. Being calm and peaceful, not desperate, frantic, or irrational.
9. Showing flexibility and openness as opposed to resisting, controlling, or being unreasonable.
10. Helping yourself, not just expecting others to do it for you out of a sense of entitlement.
11. Doing good deeds even when there is nothing in it for you other than knowing you helped, being selfless.
12. Respecting another’s point of view, beliefs, and way of life without judgment, not insisting you are right, belittling another, or using profanity or violence to get your point across.
13. Sharing your good fortune with others.
14. Being able to turn the other cheek without wishing harm on another.
15. Thinking before acting and having good manners, not going off half-cocked, lashing out, or being rude.
16. Encouraging and being supportive of others.
17. Finding joy in the success of someone else, not envy or criticism.
18. Knowing there is always room to grow and improve and reaching out for help.
19. Having humility and laughing at yourself.
20. Recognizing that which does not work in your life and making an effort to do something different.
21. Passing up instant gratification in favor of long term benefits.
22. Accepting, liking, and loving yourself, not needing someone else to “complete” you.
23. Standing up for fairness and justice for yourself and others and choosing to do the right thing.
24. Making sacrifices for the good of others without resentment.
25. Not clinging to materialistic items or bragging.
I’m sure there are probably other signs, but this list covers at least the majority of them. I know we can always do a better job displaying our mature sides. I also know that, by doing so, we lift each other up through our example. What’s most important, however, is seeing the negative side of our behavior and knowing we must do something positive to change it…And that, my friends, is WISDOM.