When Adults Refuse to Grow Up

Have you ever known a man or a woman who refused to grow up?growup.jpg

(This person could have been a preacher or an elder in your church.)

“Adult” ought to suggest something desirable. One would think an adult or a mature person might inspire or in some way cause us to do better.


  • Have you ever known a man or woman who was stuck in adolescence?
  • Have you ever known someone who 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?
  • Have you ever known a man who would not commit to hardly anything?

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 frustrate that church by their own immaturity. Nothing is sadder 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 takes responsibility for her life. An adult says, “I did it” or “I was mistaken” or “I was wrong.”

  • An adult does not forever blame people for where she is in life. An adult does not spend the workday whining about this and that. An adult learns to take responsibility 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 him.
  • 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 that I care more about what I am doing than causing others to always have to wait).
  • 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.

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.


When you are around someone who is mature, how does that impact your own behavior? How does immaturity impact relationships?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “When Adults Refuse to Grow Up

  1. great post, jim.

    i’d add something like “an adult creates.” God’s first act in our bible is that he created the earth and everything in it. and we were created in his image. i believe part of what that means for us is that we are creators. one of the world’s most popular indicators of adulthood is when you’ve created children.

    but there’s so much more to creating. we work to bring about that which is good. we create ways in which to give God glory. the work of our hands is witness to God’s power and love. and adults (those living as they were created — in his image) don’t merely react to what is around them; rather they are proactive in their community, serving and building up others.

    • Hi James,

      I really love your comment. I like the emphasis on creating (as adults) and on serving and building up others. I just went to your blog, James. Very, very good. I appreciate both your thinking and your heart. I look forward to reading more.

      • thanks, jim, for the kind words. admittedly, in the past my thinking has been better than my heart. but God’s working on that. thanks for your blog. i always enjoy reading.

  2. Jim – you got close to my definition of adult towards the end, talking about having fun and appropriateness. I always say this: an adult is someone who knows when you have to be a grown-up, and knows when you don’t.

    • Dave, I like that! “An adult is someone who know when you have to be a grown-up, and knows when you don’t.” Very good. Thanks for your words, Dave.

  3. When you are around someone who is mature how does that impact your own behavior?

    I tend to gravitate to their maturity because I look up to them.

    How does immaturity impact relationships?

    As a bi-vocational pastor, I simply understand that I was immature and still am in many ways and think, “there by the grace of God go I”

    Great questions and awesome website.

    • Jack, good comment. I especially like what your first thought. I have noticed this when I am with a small group of people. If someone mentions another person in conversation and the comment is gracious, it really does make a difference. However, if someone mentions another person and the gossip or slander begins, so often others will join in. In fact, the comments make get even more heated and insulting.

      I try to especially pay attention to those people who have a way of elevating the conversation.

      Thanks for your kind words re the blog. Hope you will return.

  4. Want to learn more about what it
    means to be “adult”? Read
    Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or the
    book of James

    Good article. And cogratulatulations for this and other. Only note i do not consider this article ending “mature”. Why? Not everyone belongs to your
    faith or has good regard for the bible.
    But because you sy you are a minister then i will cut you some slack… in the same way i would for a budhist who goes on about the joys of being oe with everything.