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Teaching Students to be More Mature

Mature or Ecclastic: The Confusion of Words

“Billy, you need to be more serious during this time. Why can’t you be more mature?”

But what does the word “mature” really mean? Has it really been used properly by teachers, youth ministers, parents, or other students? Does Billy really need to be more mature? Or does he need to be more ecclastic? What’s the difference? What does ecclastic even mean? Is it even a word? (Well, no, but it is now.)

mature [muh-chur or muh-too r]: complete in natural growth or development; fully developed in body or mind.

Among the many definitions of the word “mature”, very few actually refer to people. Most are referring to animals, plants, industry, technology, finance, medical, or restrictions on movies and/or games. But, of the few definitions of the word “mature” which actually refer to humans, none of them have a definition which accurately defines the word according to the way it is used among millions of individuals throughout our North American society.

Here’s what I mean.

You walk into a middle school (let’s say Grades 7 and 8), and you spot one seventh grader who really sticks out in your mind. And you say, “Now that kid is mature for his age.” What does that statement mean? Does it mean:

A) His or her body is pretty well developed for their age. They physically look more like an adult than most people that age.

B) His or her mind has a much more abstract and/or empathetic thought process instead of a concrete and/or sympathetic thought process than most others their age.

C) He or she is a lot more serious and/or a lot less hyper than most of the surrounding kids. He or she realizes that the current place and/or situation isn’t the best place to mess around.

As (A) and (B) would be the two correct ways of using that word. (C) is the typical way it is used. However, (C) is not, according to the definition of the word, the correct use of the word "mature".

“Those kids are on a select team, so you think they’d be a little more mature. But there are some orangutans on it.” As funny as that quote which I heard said by a mother in the hospital waiting room earlier today after her son’s head was severly cut open by another team mate chucking a Gatorade bottle at him, that word “mature” was actually used incorrectly.

Do I say this to correct someone? No. But do I say this to tackle ignorance? Yes.

So if the word “mature” is referring to the physical and/or mental development of someone, but not necessarily the behavior and/or behavioral development (as mental development is referring to a 10 year old child’s concrete and sympathetic mind maturing to a more abstract and empathetic mind by the age of 13 or 14), then what word would be used to correctly say what you’re trying to say.

Well thank God there is a word - a new word at that: ecclastic.

Ecclastic [i-klas-tik]: The ability to distinguish between the proper time to have fun and the proper time to be serious; The ability and/or characteristic of being able to differentiate between those two times.

The word ecclastic is similar to a long-standing yet unofficial definition of the word “mature”.

It’s interesting that it’s spelt with two c’s while it is pronounced as if there is only one ‘c’. The extra ‘c’ reminds us that the word is derived from Ecclesiastes 3 where we read that, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:...” and it goes on with a list, a time for this, a time for that.

So, you’re teaching a message in your youth group and you see those two middle school boys in the back making constant noises, laughing, giggling, etc. Do you say,
A) They aren’t very mature.
B) They aren’t very ecclastic.

The correct answer to that would be (B), they aren’t very ecclastic. They may be very mature - that is in the sense of the proper definition of that word. They may have abstract minds. Their bodies may be well developed (or at least developed to the level of maturity common for their age). But, they may not be able to distinguish the difference between the time to be serious, or the time to goof around. Serious meaning, “Being earnest or sincere; requiring thought, concentration, or application”.

Which then brings me to my next question. Maturity is something which develops naturally over time. According to the dictionary definition of maturity, maturity can NOT be learned. It must naturally develop over time. The body must naturally mature, the brain must naturally mature and develop.

But, is ecclastity (or being ecclastic), something which naturally develops over time? Or is it something which must be taught, learnt, trained, worked on, practiced?

Perhaps, a bit of both, but more so the latter.

Being ecclastic is something which must be worked on. Someone who is 25 years old would more than likely have a body which is fully matured and a brain which is fully matured, both mentally and physically. However, he may not be very ecclastic. I’ve seen many people in their mid-20s who are less ecclastic than many 6th grade students that I've worked with. It’s incredible.

And so, that would lead me to believe that being ecclastic is something that must be worked on. And it is something that we as leaders must teach as something which must be practiced.

Other than the fact that it’s the wrong use of a word, what’s the harm in saying “mature” where you really mean “ecclastic”?

A valid question, of course. Why change your lingo if there is no harm done? Or is there harm done? When you tell a 13 year old who is still going through ”certain changes” (AKA puberty) that he/she isn’t very mature, what does that make him/her wonder? “What’s wrong with me?” “Why aren’t I developing?” “Is there something not right here?” Catch my drift?

They may very well interpret it the correct way and thus be even more confused during this already confusing time of life. Your job as a leader is not to confuse them even more, but to help them not be confused. To help them understand the normallities of maturing.

Mature or Ecclastic? Which word will you use?