Our current pop culture encourages permanent adolescence as prurient passions rule over consideration of others and thoughtful actions and words. Children are maturing physically sooner, yet staying immature longer, with many psychosocial experts affirming that the brain – especially of males – only reaches adulthood in the mid-20s. I only wish most in their 20s were adults!
This issue is not physiological development. Our founders did much of their greatest work in their 20s and 30s. The Greatest Generation that persevered through a Dust Bowl and D-Day matured in their teens – they had to work to survive and shed the decade of stupidity that characterizes our contemporary rites of passage.
Maturity includes physiology, but it is not limited by the body. Maturity – true adulthood – is marked by the growing triumph of principle over passion, reason over reaction, ethical choices over temptations and service to others over cheap self-gratification. Biblically, maturity is the Great Commandment (loving God supremely and others sacrificially) expressed by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the virtues of the divine life (II Peter 1:1-10).
Today’s youth are far more capable than we think. The problem is their parents. Too many “adults” are acting like middle school students, exchanging gossip, struggling for acceptance through moral compromise and hoping for popularity at any cost. O wait! this sounds like Washington, D.C. and most media content! Legislative progress requires self-control, principled compromise and the ability to reign in emotion and honestly desire the best for others.
It is time for new icons of virtue. The reason we love Captain America is that he appeals to something beyond ourselves…and even Iron Man follows his lead and willingly serves the cause. We love WWII movies and documentaries because – if only for a moment – so many served at great cost. These fantasy and folk heroes are flawed, but their decisions are sound and point to the heart of maturity – looking beyond ourselves to the Almighty and the good of others.
How do we change our current psychosocial trajectory? One decision, one family, and one relationship at a time. Today let’s open our Bible and turn off the computer. Mom and Dad, decide now that nothing will break your covenant…and if you have kids, your fidelity is the number one factor in their future. Let’s encourage learning, reflection and service and discover the wonder that caring for others fills our own souls with delight.
And by the way, let’s send a message to our city, state and federal public servants: We expect you to be adults and serve the common good. We are watching and we are voting.