It got me thinking; what does it mean to grow up. What causes it and what contributes to it. Does growth always mean for the better or is it ambiguous? Do you ever wish you could reclaim a certain personality trait from your youth or get rid of one which resulted from growth in the wrong or unpredicted direction?
I've found myself coming back to dwell on this question too, from time to time. Unfortunately, when I mentally flesh-out what it means to me, I find there are a ton of complicating factors. Generally, I like to keep my replies short and sweet (folks are generally too lazy, too expectant of the quick sound-byte to read more than two lines
), but in this case I think some expression is in order.
First off, I think that bringing this concept of growth under the combined aspects of Emotional and Intellectual is a good way to look at it. On its surface it feels like it might be too simplistic. But when we look at our minds and want to know "have I grown?", "am I growing", that combined umbrella is a great place to start.
What strikes me next is that over the years (I'm 45 now), my concept of "Growth" hasn't changed much, but my valuation
has. Ask me in my 20's or 30's what I think Intellectual Growth means and my answer would be distinctly different from what it is today; same for Emotional Growth. I say "valuation" because what we esteem to be good - to constitute this growth - emerges naturally over time as our values
change. That all being said...
Emotional Growth is very important to me. To me, it means (1) The ability to express freely within the confines of prudence, (2) the proper tempering of emotions when I feel they're out of context, inappropriate or destructive -and- (3) The extent to which I can identify/empathize with the emotional expressions of others
. This is very, very important.[INDENT]Nowadays I feel as if most in my culture of emotionally-stunted; outbursts rule their behavior, and generally belch forth pel mel with what appears to be no knowledge that they're in the throws of a tantrum. But this is a tricky issue: Tempering emotions, taken wrongly, leads to suppression and/or repression
. They must flow - I believe the healthy mind needs this - but it takes the most self-aware mind, self-critical and humble heart to acknowledge expression's limits. I've learned, over time, that although once I considered the lack of emotional expression to be a sign of growth, that - done maturely - the opposite is more true.
Emotions can't be controlled, only their manifestations. Whether or not such expression is a bad thing is completely dependent on how
such expression comes out. To show oneself to be humble, vulnerable, confused, frustrated, giddy, etc., are all needful and healthy aspects of emotional maturity
[/INDENT][INDENT]Empathy, to me, is absolutely essential for emotional maturity. But this doesn't happen, at all, without compassion. What imbides such compassion is probably complex; but in a nutshell, I think compassion can only exist when we value our fellows - their feelings, their situation, their situation. The extent to which we identify with each other is simultaneously the extent to which compassion, empathy and emotional maturity can grow
. Unfortunately, so many paradigms of emotional maturity include robotic reactions, cold-indifference and bottled up insecurities. This couldn't be further from the truth.
"Growth" means something is increasing, expanding, becoming 'better' or more attuned. I think all of these fit a definition of "Emotional Growth" really well.
[/INDENT]Intellectual growth is quite another matter; and to my mind, matters much less. I have a fairly-respectable library that's constantly growing with the books I read. I don't remember every story - certainly not every detail - and probably couldn't even tell you the main characters of each. Facts, ideas, concepts, theories, historical events, names, mathematics: All these are worthless without perspective
. In fact, I think I'd say that 'perspective' is the most important aspect - that ability to contextualize 'facts' - that defines intellectual growth.
How many people have we seen who "fail" to learn a lesson? How often do we sit, mouths agape at a situation, saying, "Wow, how dumb is that?!". Intellectual growth requires that one have the ability to modify behavior in light of facts learned and/or experience
, which can't
happen without some measure of humility (that quality of character that enables a person to admit, and be OK with their faults). There are many measures of intellectual growth; but to illustrate the need for perspective, let me plow through just a couple:
- History: Who did what and when is worthless without understanding/contextualizing what it means to the present, the future and to us in some broader context
- Mathematics: How the puzzle pieces of values, formulae, variables and equation - properly applied - can unlock many aspects of our universe is worthless without knowing when, how and to what extent mathematics can be applied.
- Factual: That this is <such>, that is <just so> and he is a <something> has no meaning to us without some psychological basis for placing such facts into meaning, utility or as an added measure of perspective.
In short, I believe intellectual growth is not just the accumulation of knowledge, but the ability to place such knowledge into a context that increases understandings of a 'whole'
As a side note, I think there's nothing so immature, so wrought with ego and twisted notions of growth than the "young man". I suppose, in this, I'm looking back at myself and viewing - with not an insignificant amount of distaste - my own naive notions of growth. I could fill yet another long post with all the silly and destructive ideas of what I thought growing
was. Hell, I'll probably look back again in 20 years and say the same thing. Oh well, that's ok - perhaps this is just how it happens.
I read somewhere that, "... over time we don't ever really change, we only become more fully what we truly are". I think this is the case with personal growth; whether toward the idiocy or augustness, we're either disposed to "fit those pieces together" or ignore them as best epitomizes our talents and weaknesses.