What Is An Adult, Really?

August 27, 2013

The media outlets are going crazy talking about Miley Cyrus’ performance at Sunday night’s VMA’s. For the moment, all eyes (most of them pretty wide open when they first see it) are on her. Everyone remembers this little, fun-loving and seemingly innocent Hannah Montana from a couple years ago. She’s gone.

That picture is now replaced with a barely-clothed, booty-shaking, tongue-sticking-out, foam-finger-humping, crotch-caressing, provocative pop star. Miley is still very much a person, let’s never forget that! But, as many have speculated, it seems she wants the world to know she’s no longer the person we remember. She’s not a little girl. She’s an adult.

What Is An Adult Really

But that leads to the important question I think we need to ask ourselves: What is an adult, really? 

Being a youth pastor I’ve seen it happen more times than I’d like to admit. As teens grow up so many of them wrestle with that desire to not be seen as a little kid anymore. Physical maturity has brought them to a point where they want to express their maturity in other ways.

There will always be the usual answers, as much as teens tend to think they’re original. You can drink, because that’s adult. You can smoke and do other drugs, because that’s adult. You can fool around sexually, because that’s adult. You can be violent, because that’s adult. You can watch trashy entertainment, because that’s adult. You can curse like a sailor, because that’s adult.

What a cheap excuse for being grown up! Why? Because these kinds of decisions often aren’t markers of an “adult” but rather of an out of control person.

“I can do whatever I want and no one can stop me,” the rebel, wannabe-adult screams out. But they don’t even see that they’re acknowledging that just maybe someone would care enough about them to want to stop them from what they’re doing to themselves.

So what is an adult, really? If it’s not the above, what is it?

Here’s what I think. I think an adult is someone who takes responsibility for their actions. She uses her actions to make her life better. She then uses her life to make others’ lives better. And, in making others’ lives better, she discovers deeper meanings to life.

A child, characteristically, only sees things short-sightedly. It’s all about themselves. They will live for the moment, crying when they don’t get their way. Their concerns are all selfish and narrow. That is what marks a child.

On the other hand, the dictionary defines “adult” as a person who is fully grown or developed. I suppose this would indicate that it’s more than being a certain age or being able to participate in “adult”-type vices. Perhaps instead it’s about developing into a man or woman who cares deeply for themselves, respects themselves, loves others just as much as themselves, and desires and works to leave this world a better place than they found it. Until then, we’re just boys and girls who can shave.