By Rob Furlong
“Many people may be, chronologically, 45 years old but remain an emotional infant, child or adolescent.” What a perceptive observation the author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero, makes here! He was commenting on how many people grow up physically but never grow up emotionally.
To illustrate his point, he describes the various stages of emotional development that we need to pass through as being: that of the infant (totally focussed on having our needs met by others), the child (where our happiness or otherwise essentially depends on whether we get our own way or not), the adolescent (where we are concerned only with ourselves and don’t express much empathy for others), through to the final stage of becoming an emotional adult.
As mentioned, Scazzero reminds us that many people get “stuck” in one of those first three stages.
However he also describes the positives of being an emotionally healthy adult, which I have paraphrased:
They can express their needs and wants with clarity and honesty.
They exercise mature control over their thoughts and feelings.
In times of stress, they remain true to their values and beliefs without belligerence.
They respect the right of others to think differently to them.
They allow others to make mistakes.
They love people for who they are.
They know their own limits and are not afraid to be open about them.
They have empathy for others.
They can resolve conflict in a way that also respects the opinions of others.
I must confess that when I read a list like this, I feel a stab of guilt in my heart because I recognise that for far too long in my adult life I lived like an emotional adolescent – but by God’s grace and a commitment to the difficult task of life change, I have steadily experienced the freedom of growing up into an emotionally healthy adult.
(Admittedly there are still times when I cry like a baby but that is usually reserved for important things like when the Aussies lose a Test match!)
Growing up emotionally has the power to transform our relationships, especially with those who are closest to us.
When a husband grows up emotionally, he becomes more considerate of his wife, seeking to fulfil her needs before his own; a wife becomes more concerned about building her husband up instead of tearing him down with her criticism; and friends learn to listen, value and respect each other for the different perspectives that each one brings to the relationship.
A new year is a gift that presents each of us with the opportunity of fresh possibilities and the chance to make some changes in our lives, beginning with ourselves and then seeing the benefits of those changes spill over into our relationships.
Of course, I do not think for one minute that by simply turning the page on the calendar to 2022 that our lives will be miraculously transformed.
Change – particularly personal change – requires more than just a desire for it.
Personal change involves a commitment to seeking wise advice and then putting it into practice, over the long haul.
Real change takes time.
But a new year does provide us with a starting point that can become the catalyst for significant change in our lives.
So, embrace the opportunity that 2022 represents for you – get your hands on a good book that will encourage you to grow personally, (I recommend Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality), seek out the advice of someone who can support and encourage you in the process of change and don’t forget to draw strength from God!
And you had better get a move on – by the time you read this, 2022 will already be a month old!
By Rob Furlong