I may be getting old, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am always mature. Physically, I know I’m not young. I am reminded of this every time I look in the mirror, or try to read anything without my reading glasses on, or worse, attempt to do something that requires the strength and flexibility I no longer have. Believe me, my years of lifting anything over fifty pounds, turning cartwheels, or even mounting a tall horse without assistance are over. But when it comes to maturity, there are times when I still fall short.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were sitting in a restaurant at a tall table near the bar, eating dinner and listening to some excellent music. Some people came in and settled at the bar stools on our right, which was fine. Unfortunately, they were quickly joined by even more people, mostly male and mostly drunk, who crowded into the space between the bar and our table. They seemed to have no idea that they were regularly jostling our table, talking so loudly that we couldn’t carry on our own conversation, and that the man nearest to me was practically sitting on my lap.
The mature thing to do would have been to call the manager over and ask to be moved to a quieter table. But I was annoyed. We were there first, and they had invaded our space. I had no wish for either my husband or I to confront people who were clearly under the influence, but that didn’t mean I was going to back down. Instead, I leaned into the table and shifted my weight slightly to the right, moving the table just a few inches towards the crowd at the bar. Then I would wait a few minutes and do it again. It wasn’t long before the extra people standing between our table and the bar were, subtly but effectively, squeezed out. And I admit that I felt a small thrill of victory as I watched them wander off, looking vaguely confused and annoyed.
It wasn’t my finest hour. The people may have been rude, but they weren’t deliberately trying to ruin our dinner. The simple fact was that I felt wronged, and felt the need to strike back, and did so. If just one of them had noticed that I was deliberately moving my table in their direction, there could have been an ugly confrontation. That’s what happens when I forget to be a grown up and let my inner child out, who still lives by the rules of the elementary school playground.
The sad truth is there is a difference between growing older and becoming mature. The first one happens naturally, with no effort on our part, whether we like it or not. But becoming mature requires an intentional effort to grow in understanding, patience, wisdom, and tolerance. It means considering the consequences of our words before we speak and the consequences of our actions before we do something, and knowing when a cause is important enough to stand our ground and when it makes more sense to simply walk away.
I like to think that I’ve matured as I’ve grown older, and I know that in many ways I have. Yet there is obviously still plenty of room for improvement and growth, even at this stage of my life. I may wish I was just a little less old, but what I’d really like is to be a lot more mature.