I think such a use is really unfortunate. "Adult" ought to suggest something desirable, something that inspires, something that causes us to want to do better. Yet, have you ever known a grown man or woman who was stuck in adolescence? Have you ever known someone who just refused to grow up? Have you ever known someone who had an adult body but who was so immature that she damaged many people in her life?
I’ve been a minister for a long time. Through the years, I have known a few very immature ministers who began working with a church only to stifle that church by their own immaturity. Nothing is more sad than a minister who spends his time and energy manipulating people into propping up his ego instead of relating to people on an adult level. Of course, this kind of behavior is not limited to ministers. I talk with people on a regular basis who deal with such people at work.
So what does it mean to be an adult?
- An adult is learning to take responsibility for her life. An adult learns to say, "I did it" or "I was mistaken" or "I was wrong." An adult is not forever blaming people for where she is in life. An adult does not spend the workday whining about this and that. An adult learns to take responsiblitiy for what she has control over and move on.
- An adult does not use people to prop up his sagging ego. An adult can focus on another person, compliment and affirm without always turning the conversation to himself. Even the person who is always denigrating himself may be doing that in an effort to keep the attention focused on himself.
- An adult considers the implications of his behavior on other people. "If I don’t come through with my part of the project, how will that impact the other team members?" An adult considers the schedules of others instead of being consistently and regularly late (which communicates to others "I care more about what I am doing than causing you to always have to wait on me."
- An adult follows through. "I’ll give you a call." "I’ll put you in my prayers." "I’ll bring this book right back." Do you follow through? Do people know that when you say you will call that you will call? Do they know that when you say, "Let’s have lunch" that you are serious? Or do they know that you rarely follow through on what you say? I was visiting with a friend the other day. He told me of a mutual friend who one day said to him, "Let’s all get together for dinner soon." My friend said, "I knew that would be the last I would ever hear of that unless I took the initiative to make it happen. That guy is always saying such things but doesn’t follow through.
Now don’t get me wrong. Adults are not people who are overly serious and a bore to be around. No–adults can laugh, be silly, ride bikes, cheer at sports events, and on and on. In other words, having fun and being adult do not contradict one another. It’s just that adults have learned one thing that many others have not.
Adults are learning what behavior is appropriate and when. Want to learn more about what it means to be "adult"? Read Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or the book of James. All are in the Bible. All give us pictures of people who are maturing and those who aren’t.