To be mature is to be personally, and not merely physically, grown up. Maturity is the stability and resourcefulness of one whose personal growth measures up to the demands of life.
Now, life is the complex and necessary endeavour of human beings to master material nature and to form under God a whole community developing towards happiness – and to do this against the disruptive influence of irrational forces, competitive, self-interest and sectional social interests.
Personal maturity, therefore – the accomplishment of a person who has responded consistently to life’s call for integration and wholeness – will have certain basic characteristics and will be built on certain very definite foundations.
Since life is complex and we are endowed with reason or intellect to cope with it, the first requisite of personal maturity is sure to be understanding.
Next, since life involves he needs and feelings of those about me, and of countless of other human beings besides myself, together with the opportunities for fulfillment which social organisation confers upon us, there is, in the making of personal maturity, no substitute for genuine love and for personal involvement in an order of love.
Finally, since life is a daily confrontation with real and threatening evils which oblige us, while struggling for its more important benefits, to seek our fundamental happiness in its enduring values, there is no access to mature living without personal or spiritual strength.
Maturity is Threefold and Fivefold
Personal maturity, therefore, involves simultaneously a person’s mind, heart and character.
Through understanding, maturity is an expansion or growth of the mind.
Through love, maturity is a perfection of the heart. The emotionally mature person has an educated heart – an acquisition which as such is unrelated to formal schooling or academic attainment.
Through personal or spiritual strength, maturity is the emergence and positive affirmation of character.
Development of mind, heart and character all go together. For example, an objective understanding of life needs love, which alone gives the appreciation and compassion necessary for an understanding of persons.
Love, for its part, requires knowledge and understanding and love is only sensitive in proportion to the subtlety of a person’s discernment.
Love also provides the motivation necessary for the formation of character, just as understanding clarifies the goals and the means that are vital in this formation.
Moreover, without strength of character love easily degenerates into a corrupt indulgence of feelings and nothing tends more than this does to cloud and distort a person’s understanding of life.
Now, if character is synonymous with spiritual strength, this overall spiritual strength is the fruit of particular spiritual strengths acquired through consistently healthy action in various aspects of living. These habitual strengths have traditionally been called virtues (virtus = strength). They can be acquired – as the old maxim explains: “Sow an act and reap a habit, sow a habit and reap a character.”
The acquired habits or virtues that go to make up mental health or personal maturity are almost innumerable. We could talk of patience, kindness, truthfulness, prudence, generosity, chastity, sobriety, courage and so on. But in one way or another they all come under the three great headings which we are using – they would be habits that make for a true mind, a loving heart and a strong character.
Character itself is obviously the whole person under the aspect of his or her strength, consistency or integrity in doing and enduring. However, on analysis, it can be seen to involve three complementary or component strengths, viz. acceptance, confidence and control.
The strength to accept calmly our providential share in the distribution of natural gifts and limitations and of circumstantial blessings and burdens, and to endure with equanimity the evils of life which we cannot change, is called Acceptance.
The strength to emphasise consistently in ourselves and in others what is good, to live above evils and not to be bluffed or disheartened by them, to change things for the better where we can and to anticipate and work for the victory of life and love and happiness, is called Confidence.
The strength to discipline our feelings, so as to establish and keep order in the part of life that is entrusted to us, and not to be led by desire or fear to betray love, is called Control.
At the same time, it is clear that the animating principles of character are always understanding and love.
It seems, therefore, that in these five great virtues, personal strengths or resources – understanding and love, acceptance, confidence and control – we have the principal attitudes by which a person manages to face life successfully as a whole.
Readings for mental health Vol.1 G.R.O.W. (International), A.C.T. Australia