We all mature physically whether we want to or not. On the other hand, spiritual maturity is not guaranteed. While you’re most likely to encounter the term “spiritual maturity” within the Christian context, the principles of spiritual maturity can be found in all religious and wisdom traditions. Spiritual maturity may be defined as:
The gradual process of developing healthy and life-giving ways of relating one to oneself, to others, and to the environment.
Most of us desire to develop the right ways of relating to ourselves and to others so that all may experience connection, peace, and lasting joy. Spiritual maturity doesn’t just happen. It requires intention, time, and effort in order to realize its benefits.
Not sure what it takes to be spiritually mature? Here are some signs that you are on the right path.
1. Your life is guided by a core set of principles and values
Too often we go through life without examining the beliefs, values, and assumptions that guide our actions. The spiritually immature live their lives without being aware of the underlying spiritual forces influencing them. The spiritually mature consciously and carefully chooses to develop life habits consistent with values such as: love, compassion, empathy, selfless giving, dignified living, etc. They avoid all things that promote negative values. Through self-awareness, they seek to live out these values in all areas of life.
2. You are slow to hold on to grudges and quick to forgive
Nelson Mandela once said that resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping for the other person to die. The spiritually mature take this seriously since they are not interesting in taking the life of either themselves or others (literally and metaphorically). They learn to safely release the poison of resentment in order to forgive those who hurt them. They recover more quickly and move on with life in order to free themselves and others from the chains of unforgiveness.
3. You care deeply for the poor, the marginalized, and the downtrodden
All the great spiritual traditions promote caring for the needs of the less fortunate. As we live our hectic lives, it is very easy to tune out the voices of the weak. The spiritually mature person is constantly aware of the needs of the poor and is inspired to take action on their behalf. They understand that for a society to be healthy, it must care for the weakest among them.
4. You maintain your childlike sense of wonder
Too many of us stop being amazed by life as we grow into responsible adults. The spiritually mature see wonder and beauty in everything they do and experience. Familiarity is not a friend of the spiritually mature. They see new things where others see the boring routines. Every moment is treated as a gift, one that they are careful not to squander through negativity or ungratefulness.
5. You are wary of the dangers of excess but you have an abundance mindset
These two things may seem in conflict with each other but on closer inspection, you will see that they are not. Among the spiritual traditions we see a healthy balance with the environment. The spiritual masters of every age have warned about the dangers of overindulging in material and spiritual pleasures. They take what they need without hoarding. They also give joyfully from an abundance mindset. They do not give from their excess but from their hearts, trusting that there will always be enough.
6. You defer pleasure
Everyday we receive the subtle and not so subtle messages that instant gratification is an inalienable right, that it will lead to happiness, and that it will help you forget about your problems.
Spiritually mature people know that anything worth doing requires that you do something you would rather not do now in order to get a result you want later. This this the essence of delayed gratification. Studies demonstrate a correlation between between delayed gratification and success in multiple areas of life.
The spiritually mature also have an added layer to this principle. They are able to discern that sometimes we simply don’t get what we want either because the timing is not right or because what we desire may not be good for us in the long run. They know that not all pleasurable things need to be pursued, even the seemingly harmless ones.
7. You are joyful
All too often, being stressed out, reserved, and even unhappy are seen as status symbols. The hidden message is this: “If you’re busy and stressed out, you must be important. If you have no problems, you must either have no responsibilities or you’re lazy.”
There is another layer to our collective suspiciousness of joy. Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, calls it foreboding joy, “or the paradoxical dread that clamps down on momentary joyfulness.” It’s commonly referred to by the phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
We’re afraid of celebrating joy in our lives either because we’re afraid it will be taken away or because we feel unworthy of our joy. Foreboding joy, according to Brown, is our way of minimizing our vulnerability to disappointment. How can someone be disappointed when they are in a state of “perpetual disappointment.”
The spiritually mature know that in order to combat foreboding joy, gratitude must also be present (this was demonstrated in Brown’s studies). Consistent joyfulness flow, not from naivety or a lack of problems, but from practicing gratitude. The spiritually mature may not always be happy, but they are ever joyful.
8. You practice personal responsibility
If you’re spiritually mature, you’re more likely to engage in self-reflection as a regular practice. This allows you to examine your actions in light of your values and often hidden motivations. You’ll also be less likely to blame other people or circumstances when things go wrong.
9. You are dependable
A spiritually mature person knows that their word means everything. They are seldom quick to take on new commitments, but take time to discern whether it is consistent with their values and if there is time and energy to devote to something new.
10. You are at peace with what cannot be changed
The spiritually immature worry themselves to death over things they cannot change. The spiritually mature learn to let go of what cannot be controlled in order to focus on what can be influenced.
There is one more truth about the spiritually mature: They never arrive. They know that one must work everyday to live up to their highest ideals. But they also know that the joy is in the journey.
Featured photo credit: Sunlight Forest via pixabay.com