Reaching “Maturity” can be a hard thing to explain. However, it is worthwhile to attempt to, seeing as how it is an important concept in our social way of living. Involving conduct, perspective, and our philosophy about the world, maturity entails a person who has “come into their own” so to speak.
Connected to the very core of maturity lies responsibility. You may have been a youngin’ when your father or mother sat you down and proclaimed you were old enough to understand the notion of what it means to be responsible for your actions and that as a big boy or big girl you need to take up that responsibility. That may have just been a clever ploy to allow them to feel okay about punishing you now but typically there are wholesome reasons too.
Why is responsibility such an integral part of maturity? Well, maturity is about being fully grown, fully mentally and physically developed. You could argue that humans in their vast mental potential are never quite “fully developed” but for simplicity’s sake we will claim there is a threshold through which maturity finally shows.
Part of our development includes learning to live a certain way. Young children dream of becoming anything and everything from a veterinarian to an astronaut. For them, the possibilities are limitless; their talents have not yet shown themselves. But as we age the directions of our lives shift according to our talents, feelings, passions, and good ol’ fashioned luck.
As such, we begin to live a certain way, a way that (hopefully) fits our character.
To live this way you need to be able to understand yourself and your actions. You need to see the meaning behind those actions and you need to have the correct reasoning for acting that way. Otherwise you will find yourself moving in directions that are unwholesome, immoral, or downright stifling.
Most importantly, acting in accordance with your own reasons involves the necessity to see those reasons, and thus the actions, as being yours. You can act according to reason for anything, but those reasons may be your parents’. Until those reasons become yours–having clear connections to the values of your life–they are merely outside pushers forcing you to do their bidding.
Taking responsibility is a necessary consequence of taking personal stake in an action. While taking responsibility can often be bad, it can often be good as well.
When you make a tough decision at work, sometimes it will pay off. Sometimes it will not. The important part is taking responsibility whether it does so or not. When things go right, you reap the benefits. When things go wrong it becomes a learning experience–an important lesson through which you can refine you reasoning.
If you fail to take responsibility when you lose and instead put the blame on something else, you miss out on important opportunities to correct your mistakes. Unless you do so you will continue to make the same mistakes again and again.
Reasoning Behind Actions
Thus, we see a clear need for personal responsibility in order to reach maturity. To be mature means you are developed mentally. To develop mentally you need to exercise those faculties–thinking, reasoning, evaluation–that define your mental life. To exercise those faculties you must face situations which put them to the test and have you make tough choices. Responsibility is the consequence of living in a world with consequences, and is required both for a flourishing life and learning from mistakes.
The focus on this article, though, is not really about responsibility for actions. It is taking responsibility for the reasoning behind those actions, which I find to be much more important for mental maturity.
Taking responsibility for an action is easy compared to doing it for your reasoning. Why? Because when it comes to an action, you can always make a mistake. A slip of the tongue, a drop of the tool, handing back incorrect change. Mindless actions which humans cannot do with 100% efficiency.
But the reasoning behind actions? It’s deeper, more involved with our overall character. If your reasoning is bad it can be a hard hit to your pride when someone calls you out on it.
Taking responsibility for your reasoning means you are in charge of the upkeep. You can’t be lazy and let yourself succumb to the whims of others’ arguments. Those arguments may appeal to you, but you must turn them over in your head and deeply evaluate them. That is taking responsibility for your reasoning.
That is how you take on true moral responsibility. When the actions that you perform are driven by your reasoning which has been polished by rigorous thinking.
You may not do the right thing every time but your actions are your own and you are more than on your way to refining yourself into a truly virtuous character.
Living life in this way–taking personal stake in your own reasoning and taking responsibility for that reasoning–will allow you to flourish. Instead of being a lost ship at sea, directionless and barely afloat, you become a commanding vessel, one which moves easily from destination to destination and is able to navigate even the harshest of weather.
That’s because being this kind of ship is knowing “what you are about.” You don’t need someone else to do your reasoning for you. You don’t need others to tell you what to do. Sure, sometimes it is helpful to have a guiding hand from someone wiser, but the final outcome always has your own little spice mixed in.
It is important to never shy away from a situation that can change your life for the better, and situations that require you to exercise moral responsibility are just those kinds of situations.