Howard Thurman’s Stages of Maturity

by Martin Vorel

The immediate reaction of the child is clear and precise: varying forms of protest from the sustained whisper to the roaring scream (these two words are used together quite advisedly).  Sometimes it is a battle of nerves between the baby and the mother.

At this point the baby is having his initial encounter with spiritual discipline.  A pattern of life has been interrupted.  In the presence of an expanding time interval between wish and fulfillment the child is forced to make adjustment, to make room in the tight circle of his life for something new, different, and therefore threatening.  The baby begins to learn how to wait, how to postpone fulfillment.  He thus finds his way into community within the family circle.

 

…If the response of the parents or others continues to be available on demand, the conscious or unconscious intent being to keep the time interval at zero between wish and fulfillment, the baby begins to get a false conditioning about the world and his place in it.  For if he grows up expecting and regarding as his due that to wish is to have his wish fulfilled, then he is apt to become a permanent cripple.  There are many adults who for various reasons have escaped this essential discipline of their spirit.  True, in terms of physical and intellectual development they have continued to grow.  Their bodies and minds have moved through all the intervening stages to maturity, but they have remained essentially babies in what they expect of life.  They have a distorted conception of their own lives in particular and of life in general.

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