Marriage may be for adults only, but how do you know when you are an adult? True adulthood cannot be documented on a birth certificate. There are four signs of adulthood. The four indications of differentiation:
- Responsibility. You make your own decisions and you realize that the decisions you make have consequences. You know that, when it looks as though you are not deciding, you are still making a decision. You don’t maneuver others into making decisions for you by forcing their hands. Once you make your decisions, you own them. You’re willing to admit them, even when they do not work out as you had hoped. You’re willing to accept the consequences, and you don’t manipulate others into cleaning up your messes. You clean up your side of the fence, even if the other guy hasn’t cleaned up his.
Being responsible improves your ability to get close to others. Others can trust you, so they want you around. When you make your own decisions, you don’t have to keep your distance from powerful people. You can say no. You can seek advice and let yourself be influenced by others because the final decision is yours anyway. You can change your mind when warranted. You can be flexible without losing your identity.
- Composure. You soothe your own hurts and regulate your own anxieties. You don’t depend on other people or on some substance to do this for you. You’re able to sit with your feelings. You’re careful about practicing catharsis. Letting it all out scares people and the hurtful words you say cannot be retracted.
When you can regulate your own feelings and anxieties, you don’t have to be dependent on others. You can just enjoy them for who they are. Others won’t have to run when they see you coming; they don’t get sick of hearing you complain.
- Moderation. You avoid over-reactions. When you make a mistake, for instance, when you’ve trusted someone too much, you don’t overcorrect by not trusting at all. When you over-react, you make the same mistake in the other direction. You make small adjustments and steer steadily down the middle. You avoid flying off into extremes. When others get anxious or emotional, you don’t have to. You remember that their feelings are their feelings and not yours. You keep yourself grounded.
When you practice moderation, other people find you reliable and consistent. They don’t have to be afraid to bring you bad news. They will try to solve problems with you. You will not have to keep changing course, or making corrections. You can focus on your goals and go further. You can be around difficult people and help those who most need help.
- Meaningful Endurance. You accept temporary hardships for the sake of meaningful objectives. It’s natural to seek pleasure and avoid pain, but sometimes brief discomfort must be tolerated to attain better things. People are more successful when they forego immediate gratification.
However, be sure that your pain is meaningful. You don’t accept any hardship if the objective is unimportant. If you have invested in something that will never pay off, you get out of it and cut your losses. There is no point in suffering unnecessarily; there’s enough suffering anyway, you don’t have to go looking for it.
When you practice endurance for meaningful objectives, people will respect you, even if the objective is not important to them, but because it was important to you. When you withdraw from meaningless suffering, you can respect yourself.