This is a continuation of Part 1: When We Don’t Grow Up! I hope it challenges, questions and inspires you in growing.
Our Father has called us to maturity in our view of ourselves, others, Him, and the world. Many situations can hinder our development of actually fully entering adulthood and this article will not be addressing those, rather I will focus on how we/I can “live adulthood from the one-down child position”(Cloud, 1990, p. 231).
Hallmarks of Adulthood
Thoughts are the foundation of beliefs. Beliefs are literally houses erected in our brain and we live out of them. Everyday whether we are aware or not, we enter houses of beliefs and sleep, eat, play, work etc out of these houses. Show me your life and I will tell you what you believe. Beliefs do not just live in your brain but make their way outside of you and create what lives in you. So do you want to live in a house built by you and God that is reflective of your beliefs or a house built by another not reflective of your beliefs. It is important as believers that our beliefs reflect “conviction from God, His Word, and our experience” (Cloud, pg. 244). Will this questioning period take time, yes, but in the end you would have developed a mind of your own.
Example of what this looks like: I was engrained in a Nigerian cultural belief that if your marriage had issues it was because the wife is doing something wrong and her husband shoulders little to none of the responsibility. I know I just got really personal but it is so important that we bring into light beliefs that hold us bondage. I therefore frequently operated from this perspective and accepted all the blame in my marriage which created a pseudo peace in my home. In reevaluating my beliefs, I took responsibility and accountability for my part and the changes I needed to make without crossing over the street to my husband’s yard and taking on his. It has resulted in me being more self-directed and being able to show up in all my relationships in a healthy and honoring manner. Talk about hard but God has called each of us to be responsible for ourselves and our decisions and not for others.
Disagree with Authority Figures
Did Jesus not disagree with the authority leaders of his day? He was honest, displayed his strong disagreement and expressed his freedom of thought. Did the leaders criticize his disagreement? Yes! However, it did not stop him from expressing his thoughts. We often view criticism as negative, however if you allow it, criticism can either solidify your current beliefs or reshape what you think about issues.
Example of what this looks like: My baby sister is 19 yrs old and attended a local college briefly before transferring to a University. Upon her graduating from the college, staff there refused to release her transcript to the University because they said she owed them certain fees. Long story short she disagreed with them and even went so far as to reach out to the president of the college to share her rationale. The president refused to speak to her and she well….refused to still pay. I was personally shocked and felt uncomfortable by the boldness of my sister that she would go so far as to reach out to the president but she strongly disagreed with them. In the end she never backed down and the college ended up releasing her transcript.Now, I am not saying this will be the usual outcome of events but I saw my sister operating as an adult and taking the risk to disagree with school authority figures.
Make Your Own Decisions
Avoid individuals who attempt to sabotage your autonomy by telling you what to think, do, feel etc. God intentionally provided us an innate right to choose, so choose life not death. We each have a right to have and to be held accountable for our opinions. An opinion is a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge (Oxford Languages). Opinions only have weight when you give it to them. The time, energy and attention you give another’s opinion of you, actually validates their opinions, because it starts creating certainty that their opinions are truthful. Whatever you focus on, magnifies.
Example of what this looks like: Sam’s father constantly tells him what he should do regarding his finances, job, where he should stay and what friends he should be around. Sam is 25 yrs old and whenever he attempts to share his perspective about these areas with his father, his dad guilts him into feeling bad for not listening to him. Sam then concedes to his father’s opinion on these matters and makes decisions based off the feelings of his father. In order to break this cycle, Sam begins by setting boundaries on what he shares with his father and instead begins make decisions consistent with his values. It is a risk for him but as he does so he develops confidence in himself, even his boss notices improvement in his productivity at work and gives him a promotion. It can be difficult and even a fearful thing to step out of the shadow of our parents, to develop our own sense of self and what we want to do with our lives. Decisions are stepping stones into our future.
This is a time to practice what you could not while you were growing up, with those who have “assigned themselves as gods in your life, or to whom you have given this exalted position” (Cloud, pg. 246). This does not mean you need to be mean or confrontational. Do not be surprised if you feel you are being disrespectful or rude, this has been a muscle not used frequently and it will not be comfortable in the beginning. Keep going!!
Example of what this looks like: Nene is a 30 yr old single young woman who is over involved in church activities. Her Pastor often calls and texts her all hours of the night to do things for church and herself. This Pastor is female and single. This Pastor tells Nene that it pleases God for her to be so “committed” to the church and not influenced by the world. Nene often feels she is disobeying God when she disagrees with her Pastor and experiences guilt and shame. She has a sense that she should not be feeling guilty for disagreeing therefore she works up the courage to speak to her Pastor about cutting back on her involvement and focusing only on the things that reflect her purpose. She also activated the Do Not Disturb feature her phone so she can rest better at night. Her Pastor was unhappy with her boundaries and Nene remained respectful as she communicated her needs. It was anxiety provoking for her at first but the more she did so, she felt at peace.
Deal with Your Sexuality
As stated before in Part 1, children do not talk about sex and neither engage in such behavior. Becoming an adult therefore means re-educating yourself about sex and your sexuality, deprogramming yourself of the negative views of sex which have kept you stuck in a preadolescent stage regarding sex. Find a trusted other or therapist to talk about such issue to process emotions connected which such negative views. Become aware of your sexual feelings. We are called to steward our sexuality and not repress them because when we do, we actually repress other adult functions from being developed.
Example of what this looks like: Lisa has held the belief that it is not appropriate for her husband to touch her breasts, it feels silly to her, she literally pushes him off and laughs. She received a theologically incorrect and rigid message growing up that the body was bad/sinful and any pleasure was sinful. She therefore never fully developed into her sexual identity as a woman and has instead become developmentally arrested in this area of her life. Dealing with her sexuality would look like her acknowledging and affirming the different parts of her body and the feelings that come up for her. This would also mean having her husband if possible also affirm her. There are additional stages of this process but this part is foundational.
**For assistance with any sexual issues it is important to contact a Christian Sex Therapist. There is help available.
Give Yourself Permission to be Equal with Your Parents
Authority issues can stem from an inability to take on the role held by the same gender parent. It is either you disliked how your same-sex parent fulfilled that role or you are concerned about taking over such a role. Either way this is the gender role you are to embody. So incorporate the things that made your parents successful and where they fall short, look for individuals who model success.
Example of what this looks like: Let’s get back to the example of Sam, since his father is over involved in his life Sam recognizes that he could exhibit those same traits. He has become aware to a degree when he is exhibiting those same traits with his friends and course corrects himself. He has even given his friends permission to inform him when he is being overbearing with his opinions. This has allowed him to have internal and external feedback on his behavior, so he is constantly refining his perspective and growing.
Recognize and Pursue Talents
Take the gifts from God and develop them further through practice, study, mentorship etc. Adulthood requires taking ownership of what God has given to you and how to maximize it.
Example of what this looks like: In the beginning of my therapy career, I had to read counseling books, attend trainings, attend supervision to look at my therapy tapes so that I could grow and maximize my talents in this field. Honestly this same rigorous development and stewardship still continues till this day. God has planted me within this part of His kingdom and the expectation is that I be the best I can be because it is reflective of Him.
Submit to Others Out of Freedom
Submission is done out of love not compliance. You choose to come under the mission of another, without an authority conflict. It does not negate your adulthood, rather it affirms and validates you exercising your God-given authority to submit to another.
Example of what this looks like: I submit to the mission and vision of MyCounselorOnline because it coincides with the Kingdom and the Kingdom has leaders and those who help to bring the vision to life. Leaders would not be able to accomplish a mission if people did not buy into the vision, sacrifice for the mission, and work it out daily. I am not less than, rather, I have an important part to play in this particular part of the Kingdom. I choose to exercise the authority God has given me under leadership and have actually grown in multiple areas of my life not just professionally. Being submitted actually is meant to multiple what is in your life, any other outcome is not the Kingdom.
In conclusion, I hope this challenges and fires you up because the Kingdom needs matured sons and daughters to begin to execute the mandates of the Kingdom whether it is in your relationships, work, church, health, etc. Jesus is our perfect example of adulthood lived out practically in this world.
Quotes are taken from the book Changes that Heal: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future written Dr. Henry Cloud.