We all recognize the difference between a mature and an immature person. We identify a mature person as having certain virtues. As we know, a mature person is responsible, honest, good at listening, non-fickle, etc. But what is the single variable that underlies all of these virtues? Are there any signs of immaturity? What fundamentally distinguishes a mature from an immature person?

Identifying immaturity

The fundamental distinction between a mature and an immature person is found in the person’s intent. An immature person is self-serving and a mature person has the intent to contribute. We can see that the intent to contribute, or to be helpful, accounts for all of the virtues we ascribe to a mature person. When we say someone is responsible we say that they are able to see to their duties even if they might have inclinations not to. They are able to suspend their personal agenda to look after their responsibilities.

When we say that someone is honest they will tell the truth even when doing so may not be in their best interest. Another one of the signs of immaturity is that a person will not be able to suspend their own agenda. They will selfishly pursue what they want, even if this means being dishonest. A mature person is also able to suspend their own agenda in order to give attention to the agenda of someone else. This is exactly what listening requires. An immature person can’t do this, they will selfishly impose their own views and plans on the conversation.

The mature

A mature person then is motivated predominantly by the intent to give whilst an immature person is motivated by the intent to take or get. Maturation is a process that only really ends when we die. Given this we must recognise that mature people will sometimes make mistakes and act in an immature way and immature people will sometimes manage to act in a mature way.

Signs of Immaturity

But what are some tell tale behaviors of an immature person? Here is a useful list of 9 signs of immaturity that I took from Brendan Mcphillips

  • If you are an immature person you will mostly talk about yourself. Somehow every conversation you are in becomes focused on you and the events of your life. Now of course a mature person will talk about herself but doing so won’t be obsessive. The mature person will talk about herself but not excessively. And not when she should be listening to what the other person has to say. So as a mature person you can talk about yourself but you should also make a point to express a sincere interest in others.
  • You litter. Self-centeredness is often shown by littering. A person who litters is saying that the world is their trash can. Moreover, that someone else will take care of it. Of course there are limits to this. In South African townships for example littering is not given a second thought, it is not seen as bad, so someone who litters in a township is not necessarily immature.
  • You don’t consider the impact of your actions on others or, if you do, you don’t care.  You will be so into your world and what you feel they should be getting. Moreover, that you have no idea of your rudeness or the needs of others.
  • You see the world through “you-colored” glasses. You only relate to how any local, nation or world event affects you personally. If your town wants to raise money for more public space, you only focus only on what it will cost you. Furthermore, you focus on what you might get from it, rather than how it will benefit the community. You insist that the government help the “little guy” only so that the “little guy” isn’t so impoverished that he has to mug you when you go downtown.

The self-centered view (cont…)

  • You have an entitlement mentality and expect to reap without sowing. This is generally the mentality of people who are hung up on their rights. If you are somehow inconvenienced, your first thought is how you can sue and win money. If someone doesn’t do what you expect them to do for you, you get incensed and angry.
  • You don’t fulfill the responsibilities or commitments that you’ve made either consciously or unconsciously, in other words you are irresponsible. In addition, you agreed to take a job to help a company or organization fulfill it’s purpose and it has either stated or implied time and duties and you slack off. You agreed to marry and have children with all the responsibilities implied in both and you don’t live up to them, leaving your wife and children to start a new life with a Harley Davidson and sunglasses.
  • You only see extremes in every idea, person or organization. For example you believe either that the ANC are a bunch of thieves or that the DA is the champion of South Africa, without recognizing the nuances.
  • You have a limited understanding and perspective of life. You think that anything that causes discomfort is bad and therefore you feel you have the right to complain and worry. Furthermore, you are not able to recognise the blessing you already have. This can be because you are so caught up on the one’s you don’t but want.
  • You give only when you expect to get. Your immediate reaction when people ask you to give for some reason is how it will impact you. You look for either a direct benefit or an implied benefit. For example, increased social status everyone knows that you gave and how much.

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