Maturity is not defined by how much money you have in your bank account or how many awards you have hanging on your office walls. It is not something you reach after buying your first house, having your second kid, or turning 40.
Based on the Cambridge Dictionary definition of maturity — the quality of behaving mentally and emotionally like an adult — being a mature man means that you are mentally and emotionally healthy and experienced. Those two factors are the leading criteria, which helps explain why society seems to be feeling the lack of mature manhood. Mature men will have a hard time rising out of a culture that tends to coach its men to suppress their emotions and keep their mental health more secretive.
The nature of my job puts me around a lot of young adults so I get to know and work with young men who are heading into their twenties and thirties. In January, my organization gathered 65,000+ 18–25 years olds for a conference to start the new year. I know that there is a strong core within the younger generation who desire to grow towards maturity. They just need a roadmap for how to get there.
Societally, we (myself included) need to be concerned with shifting out of boyhood and into manhood. And as we become men, we need to set our sights on being mature, stable and sturdy. That is what is attractive and that is what will set us up for success in any area of life we choose to pursue.
So what is mature manhood and how can you build towards it? While there the concept of maturity is comprised of many characteristics, I like to lean towards these two marks as being representative of the quality and nature of a mature man.
“Being generous often consists of simply extending a hand. That’s hard to do if you are grasping tightly to your righteousness, your belief system, your superiority, your assumptions about others, your definition of normal.” — Patti Digh
You can see the measure of someone’s maturity in how much they are willing to give themselves away.
It takes mental fortitude to think rightly about yourself in comparison to others. It takes emotional well-being to value others as much or more than you value yourself.
For those seeking to become mature men, strive to be generous. The true expression of generosity stretches far beyond the financial implications of the word. If you can give money to those who need it, by all means, give and give generously.
But in the same breath, give of your time. Invest your talents into others. Sit on a bench with a friend and listen. Give your heart to your spouse or partner. Give your eyes to both the difficulties and the beautiful details of this world.
Do not shy away and become isolated in the sphere of what you think you are able to control. Maturity means that you lean into the fact that life is not about you.
Work to be vulnerable with your struggles and your pain. Share your experiences and be sure to journey alongside others in ways that add life and joy to those around you. Be a giver, not a taker. Be a builder, not a consumer. Shun entitlement and spur on gratitude.
When your eulogy is given at your funeral, people will talk about what you gave to others, not what you kept for yourself.
“I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.”— Lao Tzu
Men are often taught that success comes through bold, dominant actions. In practice, however, this advice tends to create more examples of men acting like bullies on an elementary school playground than it does mature men.
In recent decades, we’ve done ourselves a disservice by associating gentleness with weakness. As most men do not want to appear weak, we’ve raised our boys to view gentleness as a roadblock to hurdle on the way to toughness and grit.
And yet, true gentleness is an anchor of the mature man.
Gentleness comes from mental assurance and confidence. Gentleness is not timidity or arrogance. It is humility demonstrated tangibly. It is strength channeled into specific actions. It is not loudness or boasting or showing off. It is consistent and understated steadiness.
Being gentle is not the same as being passive. In fact, gentleness is expressing strong emotions with graceful intentions. The “gentle man” knows anger, love, sadness, and hope but is so in control of his emotions that he is able to express each with kindness.
That is maturity. Lao Tzu also is quoted saying, “Gentleness brings victory to him who attacks, and safety to him who defends.”
There is a quiet strength that sits in the soul of the mature man, a strength that is not predicated on any external circumstance but on the internal confidence that he is able to master whatever storm may come with grace.
Everyone grows old
As Maya Angelou wrote, everyone is on the path of growing old. But that does not mean that everyone grows up.
The world is yearning for men to grow up, to see maturity as a worthwhile pursuit and to start taking steps in that direction. As you set your feet towards that path, aim for generosity and gentleness.
Let these marks be the guideposts on your journey, leading you on as you discover that maturity is not a restriction on your freedoms, but rather an expansion on everything you’ve ever wanted.