For me, there is nothing quite so pathetic, as watching a fifty or sixty year old try to act like a teen, male or female -- it is God awful to watch.
I once attended a school dance, where I had been asked to serve as a chaperone. I found a comfortable chair, and a good view of the dance floor, and stocked up on some chips and diet soda. A handsome well-built guy, tan in February, in his mid- fifties, or early sixties, with a shirt open to his navel, began to whisk young girls off for a twirl around the dance floor. The girls appeared frazzled, their dates irritated. The other adults present, were on the verge of puking. But, we all kept quiet.
The guy was really working up a sweat. His dancing became more erotic, and of the grinding variety. Finally, an elderly woman, who I suspect once taught at the school, tapped him on the shoulder and invited him to sit down. She then told him in no uncertain terms, that this was the kid’s dance, and to let them have their fun.
The bruiser pouted for the remainder of the dance, and left early, without saying good-bye to his obviously relieved daughter.
I hate to say this, but I believe this is how much of the world experiences the United States. We are witnessed as a culture which refuses to grow up, a people who too often act like teenagers. We are frequently described as cocky, conceited, self-absorbed, unaware, way too competitive, incessantly comparing, bragging and boasting, and driven by our obsessive need to be number one.
America may be envied for its wealth and power, but I do not sense admiration for our level of maturity. I think much of the world sees us as being addicted to adolescence. Always trying to find and prove our identity, trying way too hard to be winners. Like the father on the dance floor. It is a pretty sad spectacle.
We need to mature as a culture. Maturity will enable us to face the tough issues, global warming, the depletion of resources, the ongoing population explosion, the ever deepening racial divide, and the widening gap between rich and poor.
We must learn how to compromise and build consensus, to be open and willing to change, to show interest in the rest of the world, and to explore and examine other religions, as well as gain insight and understanding of other races. Maturity will save us from so much foolish bickering, and an avalanche of mean spiritedness. Maturity demands respect and civility in all relationships. A mature individual is not out to win the argument, but to listen and speak with clarity.
We need to be a culture which plants itself firmly on higher ground. Here again, this is not the turf most teens can reach. It will take real adults to make choices which display a sense of sacrifice, a spirit of service, a capacity to wait patiently upon rewards. We must view our lives in an honorable and humble manner, loyal and devoted to the improvement of the whole world, and not just the sole Self. We need to be a culture which demonstrates the desire and capacity to build the Kingdom of God, and not another Las Vegas or theme park.
Imagine a teenager as the host of a dinner party. They are simply not emotionally or spiritually suited to be a host. They don’t know how to mingle. They do not have a clue how to make someone feel at home, or how to create interesting combinations for the sake of conversation. Most of all, they are completely unaware of the art of putting the needs of others first, and not seeking to draw attention to themselves. A great host tries to melt into the background. Most teens are on the lookout for the spotlight. We need to be a culture which can be a good host to our guests from around the world.
It is hard to watch. All the facelifts, tummy tucks, liposuction and quick fix ways of looking not only leaner but younger. It is painful to see how we warehouse our elderly, and treat them with polite contempt. How we have little use for anything of age, unless it is an antique. I am tired of this ceaseless pursuit of staying forever young. I want to grow old with some grace, integrity, and dignity. I want to leave a legacy other than a bank account.
We are addicted to adolescence. We've become a culture which believes we cannot survive without staying young. We fanatically try to maintain a young physique and sexual prowess. We cannot let our faces wrinkle, or our hair grey. We are obsessed with never looking or acting old. Like all addictions, this one is just as demonic. It robs us of a spiritual life, and destroys our ability to make a genuine difference.
The addiction to adolescence is a spiritual killer. The soul simply cannot survive this ridiculous manic effort to stay a teen. The soul will just wither and rot under that pressure. The soul must grow up, and not down. Maturity requires a good bit of slogging. Adolescence is one long sprint. Maturity is setting a good pace, so one can endure the race. Adolescence is charging out of the gate, and trying to stay number one all the way around the track.
Treating age with respect would be a good beginning, talking about aging, claiming the losses and changes required to mature, and lifting up the cross which is the process of a body and mind and spirit winding down. Now that is maturing gracefully. Is there anything better than experiencing someone who wears their age like a halo of wisdom? I truly enjoy being around a wry, witty, happy senior citizen. Come to think of it, I am one.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.