“This was where the moment of maturity occurred: the place where they passed across an emotional frontier, the line that separates insecure ambition from likely success.” Making Haste From Babylon by Nick Bunker
As a writer of sagas about flawed people seeking redemption (usually from mistakes made in youth), the idea of emotional maturity has me pondering about emotional frontiers and how characters in books and those people in our real lives react to frontiers.
Some characters blanch as the emotional terrain before them comes into view. They hide along the edges of feeling, stranded in terror. They rationalize, keep secrets or drink self-pity by the pint. If only, if only . . . they seem to say.
Others plunge forward, stumbling, anxious, unthinkingly. A pride drives them. Criticism and praise prod them too quickly one way or the other. They curse the gods and run rough-shod over lessons unlearned in their futile efforts to satiate their immature ambitions.
Pruning lesser branches of the emotional tree produces stronger, mature specimens, but one must find a way to enter the frontier and not be chopped down by it. The frontier is where interesting characters live. Each character matures or dies. Even those who avoid the frontier one day are dismayed to discover the frontier has arrived at their doorstep.
Safe lives bring their own terrors and not of one’s choosing.
I decided to look at a few of my own characters to see where they stand:
JOHN WELDON hides his addiction.
THANKFUL CRENSHAW searches for the meaning of her own beauty in the arms of immature men.
BUCK CRENSHAW demands the world love him for his accomplishments because his mother does not.
Here are the marks of maturity according to Psychology Today:
A mature person is able to keep long-term commitments.
A mature person is unshaken by flattery or criticism.
A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.
A mature person’s decisions are based on character not feelings.
A mature person expresses gratitude consistently.
A mature person knows how to prioritize others before themselves.
A mature person seeks wisdom before acting.
After doing a quick inventory of myself, I have some work to do, but thank God for immature characters. We’d have no one to read or write about without them.
Readers and writers, do you have a favorite immature character?
How about an emotionally mature one?
Are you emotionally mature?
How did you get there?
***Painting by Anders Zorn