Eight Signs of Spiritual Maturity… I’m Pretty Sure

Spiritual maturity is impossible to measure. I know. I have tried. When I worked for a small Christian liberal arts university, we wanted to test whether our student gained anything from all the spiritual formation groups, Bible courses, and chapels. I heard that other Christian schools were trying to develop similar rubrics, but I never heard of a particularly successful measure.

Measuring spiritual maturity is not like measuring knowledge. You can’t simply pass a test or write a paper.  In fact, a fair amount of disagreement exists about what spiritual maturity even is. I think that one spiritual maturitymight need to possess some in order to recognize it, but I hate to even nail that down. After all, Balaam’s ass seemed to possess more spiritual maturity than did his rider.

The topic is worth discussing because, given the number of Christian bloggers, churches, preachers, Christian books, and even worship music, maturity is sought after. And let me get the cliché out of the way first. We hear that the people who are mature in any aspect do not think they are mature. I don’t think that is true. I think people who are spiritually mature probably have some idea that they have achieved some growth. It is just that they are aware that there is no end point to the journey.

More painful and necessary spiritual growth lies around the corner for anyone serious about their faith.

So the older I get, the more difficult defining spiritual maturity becomes for me. After all, I think emotional maturity and spiritual maturity go hand in hand, though differences exist. I almost didn’t write spiritual maturitythis because I was afraid people would think I was touting myself as spiritually mature. Then I thought it would be immature to shy away from something I think about a lot, just because some might misunderstand me.

Trust me. With every blog I write, someone misunderstands me. In fact, the very first blog I wrote, I received a very sad message on Facebook lamenting the fact that I was hell-bound. They were sad for me. I will tag it at the bottom of the post in case you are curious about whether my first blog began an inevitable fall from salvation.

So instead of setting out a comprehensive and authoritative list of what spiritual maturity is, I am going to give you the list of qualities I look for in pastors, Bible teachers, and indeed, anyone with whom I have any kind of spiritual relationship.

 

  1. No agenda, just love.

I do not mean that spiritually mature people should not want to share their faith. I mean merely that they don’t have to win like an emotionally immature person who waits for the other to stop talking so they can chime in again. I check to see if someone is more dedicated to changing others than loving them. I never noticed Jesus trying to change anyone. He spoke the truth, loved the people, and gave them the freedom to choose without recrimination.

In order to love without an agenda, one must set the ego aside. One must accept the insults and misunderstandings. After all, from the outside, Christianity looks a little crazy. From the inside, it is the best thing going.

  1. Seeks wisdom and knowledge.

When I lived in Kentucky, many of the churches there had a distrust of knowledge. In fact, I went to one church that I heard neighbors deem a ‘snot-slinger’ church. This is when the preacher is sweating, crying,spiritual maturity and slinging mucous around in a screaming rant. He said to the verbally abused congregation, “I am an ignorant man, but I wish I was ignoranter because then I would know that it was only the Holy Spirit speaking through me.’

I was pretty sure that he got the first part of his wish. He was ignoranter. I think that the spiritually mature are seekers and life-long learners. They acquire knowledge and seek out wisdom their whole lives.

  1. Willing to sacrifice in order to do the right thing.

We encourage our children to withstand peer pressure, but honestly, peer pressure only gets worse. Add to that the constant temptation to skate by, we can live our whole lives far more concerned with whether people think we are good people than if we actually are. I still remember the day I had that particular epiphany. I was in my late twenties before I questioned whether I was actually a moral person. Previously, my main focus was on appearing moral.

Turns out doing the right thing is not always obvious.Doing the right thing means facing the pain, not avoiding conflict if it needs to happen, and telling the truth about who you are to yourself and others. Not high on my list of fun things to do this fall.

  1. A real conscience as opposed to a fake one.

A fake conscience only fears getting caught. The limit on impulsive behavior is the threat of shaming from others. While this can be a protection, a true conscience does not act wickedly or willfully because other people get hurt.

A real conscience cares about what happens to others. To restrain your tongue or consider your actions because you value the other person in the exchange shows self-awareness. Remember, self-awareness isn’t being introspective; self-awareness is understanding the effect one has on others. Do you know how you affect people? I don’t always. I find it helps to ask.

  1. Unafraid or unoffended by differing beliefs.

spiritual maturityTolerance is not about accepting all others beliefs as valid. I do not think all other beliefs are valid. In fact, Jesus’ own words about Himself completely exclude all other belief systems. It is either Jesus or the highway… according to Jesus Himself.  However, at no time was Jesus defensive or angry about other’s rejection of Him. He got angry exclusively at people who were either hypocrites or exploiting the weak.

Many times I see people online attacking others’ theological positions from a defensive position. The moment they get angry and insulting is the very moment I stop taking them seriously. Why? Firstly, because they value the doctrine over the person. Secondly, because Jesus was crucified and did not get angry or defensive. He didn’t have to prove anything.

His life spoke loudly enough.

  1. Doesn’t love evil.

This seems obvious, but it is not. You cannot be in the light and a lover of darkness. I read recently that a famous magician has a collection of mementos from serial killers. We, humans, are fascinated by evil. If you are drawn to the occult, pornography, violence etc… you are playing with the darkness. If you feel convicted by something, confess it. I have never been in a place of sin where when I asked God to free me, that He did not over time lead me away and free me.

However, getting to the place where we hate evil seems to take getting burned over and over. If you want to be in the light, start allowing it in the dark places in you. Not convinced evil is that bad? Then you are not paying attention.

  1. Tolerant of weakness in themselves and others.

A desire for perfection means you will be disappointed eventually by everyone you meet, and continually judging yourself. What if we reframe our desire for perfection into an appreciation of excellence? To appreciate one another’s excellence in various endeavors as well as in the excellence of God’s human creation offers a lot more grace.

I know the world has so much wrong with it. I know that the human race has fallen and can’t get up. In fact, I know it better now that I blog. I am a forty-eight-year-old married woman with six grown children and the men hounding me on the internet is bizarre and gross. But in every person, a spark of the divine exists.

Try to encourage that flame instead of blowing it out. And if somewhere along the way you traded wonder for unreachable perfection, trade it back.

8. Humble.

spiritual maturityOf course, I had to say this one. Here is what humility looks like to me. It looks like being able to sit in a circle with five-year-olds and be silly. I read recently a tweet that said God wants us to be noble and dignified. I disagree. That sounds like pride.

I think being humble means laughing at yourself. It means copping to your mistakes. It means no masks. The Lord asked me if I was willing to appear foolish for Him. Took me a moment to answer. But yes. I think I am. At least today. After all, I just wrote an extremely presumptuous post on the nature of spiritual maturity.

And I am playing mind games with myself already. Am I coming off as though I think I am an expert on spirituality? Who am I to write this?

So I’m pretty sure this is my list. It seems a bit unattainable. And I have more to add. Like being able to discern God’s voice or growing in your spiritual gifts. Or having an unshakeable faith. But I will say that it has taken me a long time to compile this list. And I am not a hundred percent sure I am completely right. I think I am more right than I would have been in my twenties and thirties, so that’s something.

Some suggestions for further reading. These are excellent and I never ever recommend a book I have not read.

 

 

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If I Were Eve, I Would Leave Adam.

15 Replies to “Eight Signs of Spiritual Maturity… I’m Pretty Sure”

  1. Alice, you are awesome! I love this list and I am thankful that you were brave enough to post it. How many times as Christians do we second guess ourselves and do silly things that God never meant for us to do. Being mature in Him is all of these things and probably even more that we are not thinking of. Keep posting what God puts on your heart. You are doing a great job! – Amy
    http://stylingrannymama.com/

  2. I love this list and I love your posts! I certainly know I struggle with number #7 to tolerate the weakness in myself. I’m empathetic and encouraging of others but am beyond hard on myself. I cognitively know my worth and God’s love of me is not contingent upon any of my deed or acts but emotionally and spiritually I can flounder in this area. There is always room for improvement in our path of spiritual maturity. As always thank you for your insight and your heart for God! God Bless!

  3. This post is awesome. Definitely needed for today’s church!

  4. The one about being unoffended by differing beliefs is something I strive for because there are going to be individuals that either approach a topic out of fear or out of doctrine, hoping to “inform” me and others of what God really meant. It’s that kind of pride that is dangerous and I pray that I always have an open mind and make sure to study the Word to help me discern truth instead of what I believe to be true. Great post!

  5. I think your list is right on! I do think it is possible to be noble and silly at the same time though. 🙂
    I also would have loved to seen the expression on your face listening to the preacher in Kentucky !!

    1. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

      Completely agree about being able to be noble and silly… and about wanting to see the look on her face!

  6. First, I loved the title! Some days I think I’m spiritually mature, then I do something sinful and ugly. Back to square one – grace. This list was excellent. Lord, make me more like Jesus.

  7. susanhomeschooling says: Reply

    Insightful post! Recently I have known Christians who delight in evil and when I call them worldly, they point the finger and say I’m judgmental. They also expect perfection from me, even though they are blatantly without a conscience. I sometimes wonder if people who call themselves believers are truly saved. I love how you describe a spiritually mature person here–I have ALL of these qualities and I LOVE them in others and almost never see them in anyone.

  8. I think that you make a great point about how the spiritually mature (or the mature in general, for that matter) aren’t afraid of ideas and beliefs that are different from theirs — they understand what they believe and why they believe it, so they are open to discourse on the topic because all it can do is afford them an opportunity to learn and to teach.

  9. I love this list and this topic. I also feel that as I am getting older, spiritual maturity means something different than when I was 20. The deeper you get, the more depth there is to discover.

  10. I have been wondering how I would know if I am spiritually mature…I guess some of these points should help

  11. Alice, I’m so glad you didn’t shy away from writing this post. We should all want to mature in our faith and be encouraged to seek out the wisdom of those who are more mature than us. Those who are mature definitely have the list of qualities you listed!

  12. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    Wonderful list! I love what you wrote, and I love the tone with which you wrote it.
    I would add to your section about a conscience that a real one understands her accountability before God. A real conscience is aware that nothing is hidden from God, and that I never “get away” with anything. An example that comes to mind is gluttony. A glutton is not hurting another person by his sin, but if he has a healthy conscience, he will understand that God speaks against excess and being controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit, therefore, excessive eating will spark the conscience if it is genuine. I hope that made sense.
    Thanks for writing this Alice. I want to go back and re-read it, and examine myself to find where I need to improve!

    1. I really agree with that addition. Our accountability before God is the taking up of our cross and we must not avoid it if we want to be transformed.

  13. It’s actually a nice and useful piece of information

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