Humility and the “Maturity Assumption”


A thought: I really hate it when people who are older than I am or more experienced in a certain area tell me that I’ll come around to their point of view when I’m their age, or have a couple of kids, or have been in the “real world” longer. It seems that there is a common, insidious, and almost irresistible urge to discredit someone else’s opinion (at least to ourselves, and often to others) by saying “when so-and-so finally experiences X, she’ll understand (and agree with me).”

Frankly, I think that assuming that your opinion is the direct result of just having enough experience (or experience of a certain kind) is a very arrogant and condescending attitude to have. It results in you viewing everyone who disagrees with you as if they are on a lower plane of maturity. I call this the “maturity assumption,” i.e., “I am right because I am more mature, and I am more mature because I am right.” It’s a very prideful, dismissive, and (obviously) circular argument.

For example, it would be very arrogant of me to assume that some of my more fundamentalist friends will “come around to my point of view” about relationships, or marriage, or parenting, as soon as they actually experience that side of “real life.” Likewise, I think it is very arrogant of certain other people to assume that when I have kids I will suddenly understand and agree with them about their parenting choices. Or that if I just get to know more homosexuals that I will begin to think like them about homosexuality and gay rights.

I’m sorry, but my opinions (and yours as well) are much more complicated than that. We have to allow others to disagree with us without being condescending and assuming that they “just haven’t thought enough about the issues” or “they just haven’t experienced X yet.”

Let’s face it: no matter who we are, how old we are, or what stage of life we happen to be at, we are always going to believe we are basically right about the stuff that matters to us. And that’s perfectly fine. Some of our views may change as we move forward and experience different things, and that’s okay, too. But we have to realize that no matter how right we think we are, we are probably wrong about a lot of things. Doesn’t matter if you’re in college, have a few kids, or are in your nineties. None of us are never going to have the whole truth about everything.

And that, too, is okay.

Humility, I think, comes with recognizing this fact and actually being able to live as if it’s true. It means resisting the urge to dismiss another person’s opinion by telling yourself that they will think like you in a few years. Don’t kid yourself.  And please don’t assume that just because someone holds a different opinion than you, that they haven’t “thought about it enough.” If someone holds an opinion strongly, chances are they have thought about it. Really. And if their opinions do change, please resist the urge to say “I told you so.” You are not more mature because you have reached a certain conclusion sooner than someone else.

Comment time! Feel free to discuss, but I do reserve the right to delete off-topic comments. In other words, this isn’t the place to debate about some of the controversial issues I’ve mentioned in passing. This is a place to dialogue about what it means to be humble, and how we can hold a belief or opinion strongly (and even believe someone else’s opinion is wrong), while still treating others and their beliefs with respect. 

2 thoughts on “Humility and the “Maturity Assumption”

  1. Yes, I share your perspective on this issue and agree that humility is key. I often cringe whenever I hear an older person prefacing their words with “well, when I was your age…” or “well, in my day…” as if either or those are a valid reason for discounting my own experiences. The thing that gives me great pause is that I am just as errant and judgmental as those who display this type of arrogance.

    In the area of humility, I often think of Moses, who was called the most meek man on earth. And why? I think it was because he was the closest to God Almighty, that he spoke to Him face-to-face and was His friend. Being that close to the Lord means that we understand more and more how ignorant we are and how supremely great the All-Wise God truly is, which will add to our humility. Of course, humility is such a funny topic to speak of on the individual level, because we can never put a measure on how humble we are without immediately erring on the side of pride. But, thank the Lord for His grace!

    Thanks for your thoughts!

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