Maturity means we are fully developed for our age. A mature apple blossom is a flower. A mature apple is a fruit and a mature apple pie is nothing like the flower or the fruit. Unfortunately, most of us lag far behind the optimum maturity for our physical age. Life does not stop while we catch up--if we are even trying. At the age when most of us should be ready for apple pies, we are still little green apples.

Our Need for Maturity

The immediate result of trauma in our lives is the interruption of growth and maturity. The cumulative effect of trauma in culture is the loss of mature individuals and communities that would serve as guides to future generations. Addressing this absence of models for mature, complete “teleios” human beings is the practical implication of living the Christian life. (Matthew 5:48) In order to make this model of mature life apply to traumatized people, a group of counselors, pastors and survivors developed a model for life. The LIFE Model, as its name implies, is a model for life from conception to death. It is an idealized model, that is to say, it proposes what life should be like rather than describing what life on earth generally produces. We have bodies and minds that readily respond in some ways and refuse to respond in others. Our knees bend one way but refuse to go the other way. We see a certain light spectrum but not infrared or X-rays. In that sense our identities are well fixed within certain limits. In between those limits we have our potential.

Just because the potential is present does not mean it will be activated and used. We develop our identities by responding and resonating when the same characteristics we inherently possess are expressed by another living being. Identity is propagated like cuttings from live plants and not grown from seeds. This way of growing an identity by receiving the life passed on from one who went before is true for us at a physical level just as it is at an emotional and spiritual level.

How Trauma Stops Maturity

A lack of maturity is one of the easiest signs to spot in people who have experienced significant trauma. The bad things that happen to us (Type B trauma) do not always leave someone frozen in their maturity tracks although they sometimes do. Bad things stunt maturity when they cause a person to live in fear, fear we often call stress, anxiety or post traumatic stress. The absence of necessary good things (Type A trauma or neglect) will ALWAYS leave a hole in our maturity. When families, churches and communities do not know the required tasks or supply the needs for maturity to form the inevitable result will be immaturity, addictions, husbands and wives acting more like children than adults and the same defects being passed to the next generation.

Fear Counterfeits Maturity

Earned maturity is characterized by the joy with which it is expressed. Mature people consider their actions to be a normal part of their identity. Heroes often say, "I just did what anyone else would have done." Pseudo-maturity develops when people become afraid that, "If I don't do it no body will do it." Often, children develop mature looking behavior but a close look will show that they are taking care of themselves and even their parents out of fear. This is commonly called codependence or enabling. Mature behavior makes us satisfied with what we have done whether it gets results or not.

Five Levels of Maturity

Maturity can be measured in stages. Each stage can be distinguished by the way people receive and give life. When we look across many cultures we find there are five life stages after birth. These stages and their characteristics are the same for men and women. Here are the five stages:

The INFANT† -- receive without having to give (be cared for)
The CHILD †† -- learn to take care of oneself
The ADULT -- care for two or more at the same time
The PARENT -- give life to children without requiring anything in return
The ELDER†† -- care for your community and guide those without families of their own

To reach the goal of full development, everyone must go through these five life stages and complete the required tasks. Each stage builds on the one before rather than replacing it. We can't skip stages. We canít stick the ingredients in the oven and hope it comes out a pie. It is not a triple if we run straight to third base without tagging first or second. We have to go back and run them in the right order or we are out. We are also not adults if we didn't do infant and child tasks correctly. Full development at each stage means that there is a lot to learn and practice. The goal is worth it!

All maturity is a human responsibility requiring both individual and community effort. The individual must work at his or her tasks while the community must provide the needed materials for her or him to succeed. Like most goals, maturity requires individual effort, team support, and group strategy. Some of the most complete information on Life Model maturity can be found in Jim Wilder's book The Complete Guide to Living With Men.

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