A young mother who was recently put into leadership of our church women’s group told me she was worried that she didn’t “adult” properly on her first Sunday in charge, but I assured her that she displayed a great deal of “adultery” at church. (She’s still hesitant to speak to me.)
I was proud of her worry, though. She understands that being an adult, or a “Grown-up,” is a good thing, and she wanted to do it right. Too many people, however, are content to remain “Children”: they don’t want responsibility, they expect to be handed everything as if they were still babies, and they’re easily offended if the world doesn’t go their way.
But being a Grown-up is a great thing. Here are 12 ways that Grown-ups make the world a better place, and why I’m resolving to be a better one. First, some definitions:
“Grown-ups” can be any age, and they’ve discovered that life isn’t about satisfying themselves: it’s about serving others. And when you take care of others, most of your problems take care of themselves.
“Children” are adults of any age who still think life is about getting all they can for themselves, and whose single-minded selfishness causes frustration to just about everyone they come in contact with.
Here’s why being a Grown-up is better:
- Grown-ups are modest. While they’re proud of their spouses and family’s accomplishments, they aren’t Children who brag incessantly about perfect grades, or post college acceptance letters online, or post a hundred photos of their latest and expensive vacation. Grown-ups will discreetly mention a promotion or a child going to college to let friends know that a change is occurring, but they also know that many of their friends are struggling, and that boasting about successes frequently make others feel inadequate and discouraged about their own failures.
- Grown-ups are discreet. They’re careful with what they reveal, especially on social media. While Children air out all of their dirty laundry about family, work, or awkward personal problems, Grown-ups think before posting, pause before venting, and consider if they really want the entire world knowing their troubles. Grown-ups realize that most people don’t want to know, and that unloading your troubles to only a couple of people who can really help resolves their problems much faster.
- Grown-ups build up others. They are concerned about making everyone around them feel comfortable and loved, and when they ask how someone’s doing, they really want to know. Children, on the other hand, are concerned only that everyone notices they are in the room. And they want to be The Most Important Person, too, so they frequently insult or tear down others, then claim they are only “teasing” when they go too far. Grown-ups, however, go out of their way to lift those who are flailing, encourage those who are discouraged, and be genuinely kind to everyone, everywhere. It’s rare when someone notices that a Grown-up has a problem; they won’t advertise it or draw any attention to themselves.
- Grown-ups are secure. They don’t need expensive cars, fancy clothes, remodeled homes, or any other status symbol because they are confident in who they are. Children, however, are easy to spot because they make sure you see they have the latest, biggest, and most expensive of everything, because that’s how they feel important. They excessively post selfies of themselves desperately searching for praise and approval. Their possessions define them, whereas Grown-ups are defined by what they know, who they love, and what causes they worry about. Grown-ups never create drama, but Children always do. Children crave drama, and never realize that everyone else hates it.
- Grown-ups are selfless. They care more about others than themselves. Among Grown-ups is the company president who stays after the holiday party to vacuum so the janitorial staff doesn’t have too much extra work; the grandmother who’s absent from the big family party because she’s in a back bedroom with an overwhelmed four-year-old, reading him a book; the popular teenager who decides each day at lunch to sit with the loner kid because he needs a friend. Children, on the other hand, steer every conversation to themselves, don’t listen to anyone else, and sulk when not enough attention is given them. A Child may be the grandfather who pouts because he thinks he’s been disrespected by a clueless grandchild, the employee who feels her accomplishments should have been publicly acknowledged at the boss’s luncheon, and the college student who complains no one is his friend when he does nothing but play games on his computer all day.
- Grown-ups make life easier. They step in when a problem arises. They clean up the messes, they offer the jobs, they pick up your kids, and they spend their Saturdays helping you move. Children cause problems, and when their family/coworkers/friends see them coming, people tense up and tell each other to brace themselves. But when the Grown-ups arrive, people relax, smile, and know that everything’s going to work out.
- Grown-ups are responsible. They pay the bills, balance the checkbook, clean up the house, cook the meals, go to work on time, and check the air pressure in the tires, even when—especially when—they don’t want to. Grown-ups work first and play later. Children reverse that, and as a result their lives are more chaotic than they need be. Children have to be prodded and nagged to do nearly everything, and are resentful when someone doesn’t swoop in and rescue them from their consistently poor choices. When a financial windfall comes to Children, they blow it on vacations and toys. When Grown-ups come into money, they pay off debts, donate some to charity, save the rest, and blow maybe only a hundred bucks on dinner out for the family.
- Grown-ups are generally happy. That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. But because they are mature, they seek solutions to their problems and humbly change their behavior when they see their faults. They realize that everyone has struggles, and they don’t see that as something to resent, but to transcend. Problems become challenges, which become triumphs. Children, on the other hand, are generally miserable. Because they expect the world to conform to their desires, they are frequently disappointed and rarely see that they are the root of their problems. Children demand others make them happy, without realizing that happiness is cultivated from within.
- Grown-ups are tolerant. They don’t feel threatened by others’ ideas, but allow all people to make their own choices and believe what they want to. Grown-ups don’t need everyone to approve of them, nor do they need constant reassurance that what they do or want is perfect. Grown-ups are content with themselves and with who they are, so they aren’t easily brought down by dissenting opinions or nasty barbs. Children, however, feel threatened by everyone and everything, if insults are intended or not, because they have no sense of self outside of public approval. They demand everyone to conform to their views and desires, and feel terrified of the world at large because it doesn’t acknowledge them as the center of it.
- Grown-ups take care of themselves. They get proper amounts of sleep and exercise, they pick up new skills, they learn how to use new technology, they read books and newspapers, and they pay attention to their health. Grown-ups realize that hot dogs and soda hasn’t been an acceptable lunch since they were eleven years old, and that their physical and emotional health is something they can—and should—take control of. But Children want to follow every impulse, and balk when someone suggests they eat better, or exercise more, or go to bed at a reasonable hour. They want to live like irresponsible teenagers as long as they can, but then are resentful when they need a handful of pills each day just to function. Children rationalize and whine they have no control over their situations, that genetics or family expectations hold them back, but Grown-ups accept that nothing, really, is out of one’s control.
- Grown-ups ‘fess up. They are honest—with themselves and with others. When they make a mistake, they own up to it, apologize, and try to make amends. But Children will rarely admit their errors, and will pretend, in the face of all evidence, that they didn’t do anything wrong. They’ll even try to shift the blame to someone else, even when everyone else can see they are at fault. Children think that admitting faults makes them smaller, but in reality confessing mistakes and rectifying them like a Grown-up is what earns people’s respect.
- Grown-ups sacrifice, without telling you the cost. They will give you their time, their money, and their love without ever letting you know how much it may inconvenience them. They give whole-heartedly, because they’re more concerned about you than themselves. Children may give those same things, but they’ll remind you—even years later—about the cost of their sacrifice. Their concern is not with your well-being, but with getting acknowledgement for their service, which then is no service whatsoever.
People love and admire Grown-ups.
They barely tolerate Adult Children.
I want to be a better Grown-up.
“Perrin, I don’t know of another family that would give up as much as you have. Shem told me that you and Mahrree had amassed a fortune in your cellar. You were by far the richest family in all of Edge.”
“Wait,” Peto frowned, “we were even richer than Trum?!”
Mahrree waved him off, but shrugged. “Well, I suppose . . .”
“When you saw people in need,” Gleace continued, ignoring Peto’s slack-jaw and Jaytsy’s rapid blinking, “you gave every last slip of gold and silver, along with the jewelry you inherited, to pay off everyone’s losses in Edge. You also took that caravan of supplies from Idumea, despite the fact that you could have lost your position in the army, because you felt it the correct thing to do. You and Mahrree don’t care for possessions or status, but for people. Already you understand.”
“How much did all of that cost?” Peto demanded, still shocked to realize his parents had given away a true fortune.
“We never counted the cost,” Perrin said. “Never count the cost.”
~ Book 5 (releasing in 2016) Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti