What does it mean to grow up? Does it mean washing your car, paying your bills, getting a job? Does it mean getting married, having kids, and sprouting gray hair? Is it necessary? Is everyone capable of it? Is it going to be hard and will it be worth the effort? All of these questions are probably what made Peter Pan decide to never leave Neverland. Growing up means a lot of different things to many different people. If we look at the words “growing up”, we simply think of the physical aspect of ageing, growing tall and wide.
But for most people, growing up means something deeper involving a change in the approach that an individual has to life and the actions that are taken with it. In this essay, we will look at why people have difficulty growing up, why it does or does not matter that they do, and what growing up truly entails. In M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled, he suggested four rules of discipline that lead to maturity and growth in a human being. These four pathways are the delay of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing.
Although he claims that most people have learned to use these four tools by the age of ten, I do not believe that everyone learns to grow up by the age of ten. In reality, I can see a level of understanding that children this age have for “growing up” and being mature, but they choose not to. I think in order for human beings to put these devices to use, they must gain experience. With experience comes failure and success. This is how we learn. In order to act like a grown up, it’s necessary for us to learn to make the right decisions by trial and error.
It is nearly impossible to be taught to live a certain way and never stray from it as a child. Children have higher tendencies to give in to their desires right away because they have not learned of serious consequences. With life experiences, that knowledge is instilled in us all. Along with experience usually comes a sense of morals. Morality is learned in tough situations, or it is taught. But typically, humans have to actually learn to do the right thing. They can’t just be told.
Mistakes are made and we are held accountable. Such mistakes could include simple things when we are young like hitting your younger sibling, or they could be as adults like not paying your bills. Sometimes, we have to make the mistake in order to be able to correct it. We look at the mistake we made, for example, cheating on a test. We are pleased with the score. However, we see that we did not receive the grade that was deserved. The other students all put in long hours of studying and in turn earned their good grades.
When something like this happens an immature person would not think much of it and move on, but a person who has grown spiritually into a person with morals will not feel comfortable with this result, and probably not do it again. That is one form of growing up. It is important to feel responsibility for the actions that have been taken. The next step is reacting in a productive way to that responsibility. In order to assume responsibility, we have to have a sense of right and wrong which is only naturally learned by living life. When responsibility is accepted, we have begun to see the truth and reality of our situation, as Peck describes.
Dedication to truth is heavily involved with the concept of accepting responsibility because for people to see blame in themselves, they have to have a clear plane of reality that shows the necessity of a solution from them. The eyes have to be opened to the truth of a problem to assume honest responsibility. Taking responsibility just because it has been ordered from us is not useful unless we are able to sit back and look at the dilemma and genuinely see where action from ourselves is necessary. If this isn’t realized, then the growing up part of responsibility is not being activated.
Some people never learn to take responsibility because they aren’t willing to hold blame for anything. These people have not grown up. They may have learned morals, but their experiences have not taught them consequences serious enough for them to change into adults. People with money often get away with this because they do not face the common struggle most people face which is providing themselves with necessities to survive. Affluent people are sometimes just given things without earning them, which results in them never having to take responsibility for themselves.
The withholding of gratification is a rough subject. Why would any human want to reject themselves of pleasure to get work done? As crazy as it sounds, it does in fact make sense. Delaying gratification in order to complete necessary tasks is an important part of becoming a mature adult. The idea of waiting for the good until the bad is finished is taught to us from childhood. We are told to eat our vegetables before dessert, and to do our homework before we can play outside. There are reasons that I will mention that may explain why many young people do not agree with this part of growing up.
I realized this when I was discussing the issue with my mother. She made a clear point that she agreed with Peck’s delaying gratification. In her generation, you worked hard, went to college, and got a job. Your hard work paid off inevitably, no exceptions. The people she knew who didn’t work hard, who just hung around and wasted their time playing at bars or other frivolous activities, did not get far and those are the people who are pressed for hard times now. This is where one generation misses the next. In my life, I have not grown up seeing stability in the future.
Neither have my peers. We see a lot of people who work hard and in turn are being laid off of work. We see people who strive for their goals, but do not come out with happiness or the things they intended. This distrust in the future causes many people to be confused. They ask why I would spend the best years of my life doing things I don’t enjoy to have nothing in return. Consequently, many people my age and even ages across the board are coming to the conclusion to gratify themselves while they can and hope for the best later on because it looks dubious to begin with.
I relate to the experience of feeling pessimistic about the future. My parents were divorced and my father died when I was young. That makes an incredible and difficult impact on the effort it takes to see a stable time ahead. The divorce rate in the country could have a large impact on this feeling in people my age. However, the “mature” adult is always around the corner making sure the young people will do the right thing. So the uncertainty of the tomorrow makes a lot of people question whether to put in the hard work now because the opportunity for gratification may not be there afterwards.
Although Peck mentions this point in his book, he does not discuss why this is an invalid argument. This leads me to believe that delaying gratification is a flexible tool of discipline. It may work well for some people and it may not work well for others. With experience comes knowledge and it’s very hard to retract what’s been learned. I believe that it’s a lifestyle choice. Some people chose to live life on the edge and go day to day because their judgment has told them to live that way and it’s been honestly beneficial to them.
In other people, working hard has paid off to amazing gratification in their lives and given them much to be thankful for. I think that it’s about being happy and taking responsibility for the way that you create your happiness. Growing up really requires a lot of effort although it is a natural process. If the parents do not show signs of maturity, then the child will not unless he learns it from his peers. That in itself is a rare case though. Growing up and becoming a mature adult is a part of life that has to be experienced and learned in order to enjoy all aspects of life.
If a person does not go through the harsh world of work and responsibility, then they may never know the true worth of happiness and bliss and freedom. In the bigger picture of the world and the universe, if we do not grow up and become hard working adults, it may not matter. The strong will survive inevitably and the immature and weak will not. People may get away with not following Peck’s rules of discipline throughout their lives and they may be happy, but they will not know the meaning of a hard day’s work which is one of the best feelings of accomplishment a human can have.
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