On Being “Grown Up”

Uncle Sam "I Want You To Grow Up" posterI’m sure you’ve had someone tell you at some point in your life to “Grow up!” They use that phrase in a derisive, condescending manner to try and shame you in regards to your interests, hobbies, outlook, etc. as though they by default possess superior and mature interests, hobbies, outlooks, etc. However, I don’t believe that’s the reality of the matter. In “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” (1952) C.S. Lewis says:

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

In a verse likely familiar to even the most casual of Biblical scholars, Matthew 18:3 says, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”. I won’t try to delve into the deeper meaning of this verse, but at a minimal surface reading, it’s evident that even the Son of God doesn’t want us to be “grown up” in the proud sense that so many people seem to possess.

In no way am I suggesting that we not mature and become responsible adults applying ourselves to the necessary business of living and all that it entails. However, let us strive to not lose the wonderment, the awe, the uninhibited joy over the simplest of things in life that children so easily and unashamedly display. I know I have been guilty of trying to be all “grown up”. But as I grow older, along with an increasing perspective that I really don’t care what others think, comes a desire to reconnect with my childhood, to reawaken those childlike qualities of wonderment, awe and uninhibited joy over the smallest of life’s treasures.