Tip: It Is Better To Be A Grownup Than To Be An Adult!

June 6, 2011

By Robert A. Rohm Ph.D.
Personality Insights, Inc.

Occasionally it is important to differentiate between certain words or concepts.  In this week’s Tip, I want to share something that has taken me almost a lifetime to learn.  As a matter of fact, I still have not completely mastered it, but I am further down the road than I once was.  The subject I want to discuss is the difference between a grownup and an adult.

It is sometimes easy to become confused about this issue when we see someone who is chronologically an adult.  When we look at a baby or a child, it is easy to recognize them as such.  And, most of us are able to identify a teenager when we see one.  However, just because someone has reached adulthood does not necessarily mean that they are a grownup.  I have discovered that the two are not synonymous. It is possible to grow older in age every year but remain immature forever! 

A person can appear to be an adult because of their age, but in reality still have all of the characteristics of a child.  Think about it for a minute – children always want to have their own way.  Children say what they are thinking because they haven’t learned to control their tongue.  Children often have poor habits; they prefer to eat what they like rather than what is good for them.  I believe one of our biggest problems today is that we have a society full of adults who have never grown up. Oh, sure, outwardly they look like adults, but inwardly they are still children.

When we talk about being a grownup, we typically mean that to be someone who has learned how to be responsible for their own life, their own success, their own happiness, and their own future.  A grownup knows how to demonstrate self-control.  They have manners.  They are able to be courteous to others.  They know what it means to act unselfishly and they also know not to be rude.  They know how to listen.  They know how to withhold judgment in a situation until all of the facts are gathered.

If you stop to think about it, this business of being a grownup can be difficult.  It requires the development of many personal characteristics that do not automatically come into a person’s life.  Character and integrity are traits that are developed by hard work and self-discipline.  Many never take the time necessary to build those traits into their lives. They only come with time, focus, effort and personal accountability.

The political season is starting to heat up here in the States (though I have believed for many years that the political season lasts all year – every year).  It would be easy to assume that everyone running for political office is a grownup since they certainly look like an adult, however, that is apparently not true!  Leading a country requires more than solving economic, environmental, or international problems. We need a shift of focus to the more fundamental traits of character, integrity and honesty in our government and our country.

I have never been an elected official, therefore I do not know the pressure that comes with that job, but I have heard it said that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Perhaps that is true, but a real grownup knows how to handle pressure.  They know how to deal with difficult circumstances and situations in appropriate ways.

I love to read about great people who have lived in the past.  Almost every one of them seems to have mastered the art of being a grownup.  They did what was right; regardless of the consequences or what it cost them in popularity.  Consider our founding fathers.  In the Declaration of Independence they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  That’s what I am talking about.  Only a grownup would be willing to lay down their life, their finances and their honor for the future well-being of their country.  They knew what self-discipline, character and integrity were all about!  They were grownups!

I recently celebrated a birthday.  I did not make a big deal about it because birthdays seem to be coming faster and faster these days.  I did, however, think about the fact that I do not want to just be an adult.  I know far too many people who look like adults on the outside, but remain children in their attitudes and actions!  I place a high premium on being a grownup.  I still know how to have fun.  I still know how to have a good time and enjoy life.  But, when it comes to the serious events of life that require love and patience, kindness and gentleness, and a heart of compassion for others, I know that can only come from being a real grownup.  That is what I strive to be every day of my life and I guarantee you that it is the best way to do life!

Robert A. Rohm Ph.D.
Personality Insights, Inc.

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