Self-sufficiency and maturity are not synonyms

Self-sufficiency and maturity are not synonyms

Self-sufficiency and maturity are not synonyms

I remember how excited I was when my first born could fix her own cereal if she woke up earlier than I did on a Saturday morning. This important milestone occurred a few weeks before I gave birth to her baby brother!

As new parents, we celebrate milestones:

  • When our baby rolls over
  • When they learn to crawl
  • When they take their first steps
  • Sleeping through the night is a big one!

These “firsts” are good signs that our baby is growing up; our baby is healthy as evidenced by their response to our love, care, and encouragement.

As our children get older, the line blurs between self-sufficiency and maturity, especially in their own eyes. It’s vital for parents to recognize the difference between the two – and continue to help their children mature, not just become self-sufficient.

Self-sufficient means:

  • I can get my own breakfast – and probably fix other meals, too.
  • I can get myself dressed.
  • I can bathe and brush my teeth all by myself.
  • I can entertain myself.

Maturity means:

  • I can choose and fix a healthy breakfast – and choose and prepare healthy snacks and other meals, too. I peacefully submit to redirection when nutrition suffers.
  • I choose clothes appropriate for the occasion; I peacefully submit to correction when my personal choices are out of line.
  • I choose to brush my teeth and do other important things – even when I don’t feel like it.
  • I steward my time wisely – choosing leisure and selfless service more than selfish or “fruitless” entertainment.

One of the most significant indicators of maturity, even as an infant, is living in all circumstances – knowing that “Joy” is our normal state. Joy isn’t defined by happiness or a lack of struggle or sadness; rather joy is defined in healthy relationships as “it’s good to be me here with you.”

When I struggle, it’s good to be me here with you. When I’m sad, it’s good to be me here with you. When I need help, it’s good to be me here with you. When my emotions take over, it’s good to be me here with you.

It’s good to be me here with you – because you are more mature than I am – and I need your wisdom and strength to help me grow up. It’s good to be me here with you – because I’m young and I need a leader to show me the narrow road; the wide road has too many potholes and opportunities for bondage.

By definition, JOY is not self-sufficient.

It’s good to be me here with you because I’m going to make dumb choices and I need your unconditional love – which always includes unwavering truth. I need to know truth more than I need a trophy or a sticker and allowance or a good grade. Truth, spoken in love, is one of the most loving gifts a parent can give a child.image

It’s good to be me here with you because, if I’m going to mature, I have to learn to return to joy from every unpleasant emotion.

This milestone could be one of the most important. When I learn to return to joy from my feelings of anger, frustration, rejection, anxiety, and loneliness, I will less often:

  • Hurt others when I’m angry
  • Shutdown or explode when I’m frustrated or I don’t get my way
  • Find ways to numb myself when I’m hurting
  • Sink into depression when I’m lonely or anxious
  • Find ways to belong that are not healthy

Children mature in environments of grace, living in relationships of trust. Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is ask for help to build an environment of grace in their home, or help restoring a relationship of trust with their child.

Asking for help is a sign of maturity, too.

“Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You” is a great book to read as a resource for learning more about our God-designed maturity stages. Read more about these resources on the GOOD STUFF page of the website.

Please comment and share your thoughts; it’s fun when a blog post starts a conversation – and a relationship!

  • Linda Hill

    I love the examples you listed in the “Maturity” column!!! I think as a mom it is hard to know how to correct a behavior that is in place because I have done more for my son than he needed me to do because I believed that was part of being a “good mom”. I’m learning that it has hurt him as well as finishing his sentences or speaking for him. Ugh – to do that over again, but I can moving forward today, ask God to help me listen better to my son and to allow him to mature in these ways that are wonderful!. He can be self-sufficient all day long but it is more compliance than maturity – 5th grade year – that’s what was expected of him by the teachers and I told him that at the beginning of the year – “independent and responsible”. He came those things which of course are good but at what cost? Was maturity sacrificed?

    • Janet

      You bring up a very important idea, Linda – compliance. Research shows compliance restricts and stunts maturity, because it’s a fear bond. When I consider that idea, I can believe it to be true because God never asks us to comply. Trusting obedience is our response to abiding in His love – and it bears good fruit -including maturity!