What is Spiritual Maturity & Immaturity?
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’ve been a spiritual seeker for a while.
You may have explored many different paths and dabbled in a variety of practices. But at some point, you might wonder whether your efforts are reaping deeper benefits. In other words, how can you spot the fruit of your labor?
Spiritual maturity is a sign that you’ve not just learned and accumulated a lot of knowledge, but you’ve actually turned that knowledge into wisdom. In other words, you’re walking the talk.
Like a caterpillar that undergoes a process of dissolution and transformation, you also have experienced many breakdowns and breakthroughs. And you’ve emerged on the other side feeling somehow different, but at the same time, the same.
How can you tell whether you’ve matured or not? I’ll explore this question with you in this article and share with you some signs to look out for.
Table of contents
- What is Spiritual Maturity?
- What Spiritual Maturity Isn’t
- 9 Signs of Spiritual Immaturity
- 11 Signs of Spiritual Maturity
- 1. Realistic, Not Idealistic
- 2. Being Kind and Compassionate
- 3. Patience, Persistence, and Commitment
- 4. Present-Moment Focus
- 5. Down-to-Earth and Integrated
- 6. Questioning Everything and Being a Freethinker
- 7. Ability to Be Flexible
- 8. Embracing Polarities
- 9. We -Centered Instead of Me -Centered
- 10. Embracing the Simple Things in Life
- 11. Nondual Consciousness
What is Spiritual Maturity?
Spiritual maturity is the experience of embodying the qualities of compassion, wisdom, and discernment. When a person is spiritually mature, they have moved from a self-centered way of living life to an other-centered way of approaching life.
What Spiritual Maturity Isn’t
Here I want to emphasize that spiritual maturity isn’t some egotistical badge of honor signifying how “wise” or “enlightened” someone is. After all, when we really self-inquire into the nature of the self or the “me,” we will soon realize that it’s just a bundle of thoughts and that, in reality, the me doesn’t exist outside of the mind. So how can “I” be “spiritually mature”? That’s just the ego talking.
As such, spiritual maturity is a process that happens organically without “our” doing. Just like it takes a while for grapes to turn into wine, rings to form in a tree trunk, or a diamond to be formed in the depth of the earth, so too does it take a while for maturity to happen.
9 Signs of Spiritual Immaturity
We’re all spiritually immature at one point or another, and I don’t think there’s any point at which we can say that we’re “100% spiritually mature” (after all, that would be a very immature thing to brag about!).
In reality, spiritual maturity is a process, a wild unfoldment of life. Having humility and knowing areas where we might still be spiritually immature can be helpful and illuminating.
Some examples and signs of spiritual immaturity include the following:
- Having rigid black-and-white ideas about spirituality, life, self, and others
- Difficulty embracing paradox and nuance
- Being overly idealistic
- Believing that freedom, peace, happiness, etc., is somewhere in the future or past
- Lack of compassion toward oneself and others
- Obsessively seeking special or extraordinary altered states of consciousness
- Demonizing the human parts of oneself and overly elevating the spiritual aspects
- Ego inflation which can lead to spiritual narcissism
- Engaging in spiritual materialism
There are many other signs, but these are a start.
Psychospiritual therapist Neil M. Goldsmith shares an interesting perspective on spiritual maturity and immaturity and the intersection with psychology, writing:
With the exception of these biologically based illnesses, psychology must come to be seen as the science of spiritual maturity. We call people neurotic when, in reality, it’s not a medical illness they are suffering from, but spiritual immaturity. We must redefine spirituality, too, not as supernatural, but as simply the natural unfolding toward the wise, mature end of the normal curve of human developmental psychology.
Focusing only on spiritual growth while totally neglecting psychological development is, therefore, another sign of spiritual immaturity. Both spirituality and psychology must come together for there to be well-rounded development.
(See: Spiritual Psychology: Why Meditation Isn’t Enough! for more on this.)
11 Signs of Spiritual Maturity
Here are the eleven signs of spiritual maturity broken down in a way that I hope, is easy to understand:
1. Realistic, Not Idealistic
An idealistic approach to life seeks perfection: a perfect mind, a perfect body, a perfect family, a perfect job, and so on. However, spiritual maturity involves understanding that these utopian ideals are ultimately unhelpful and unrealistic.
Furthermore, when applied to the spiritual journey, idealism is harmful because it romanticizes certain teachers and states of consciousness, which can lead to becoming trapped and walking down the wrong path. Therefore, instead of being idealistic, spiritual maturity involves non-idealism or being realistic and down-to-earth.
2. Being Kind and Compassionate
Kindness comes from an open heart, and an open heart is a sign of spiritual maturity. Without practicing kindness toward ourselves for our shortcomings and human flaws and others for their imperfections, we live a constricted and unhappy life. And the more constricted and mind-centered we are, the more immature we are.
Practicing self-love and coming from a place of compassion toward others helps us to step outside of the judgmental and rejecting mind and into the wise all-embracing heart.
3. Patience, Persistence, and Commitment
We live in an instant gratification world where we want fast results, and we want them now. But that’s not how the spiritual path works. A big part of spiritual maturity is understanding that everything in life works in cycles. Birth, death, and rebirth are part of our inner and outer landscapes, and there is a season for everything.
As such, being patient, persistent, and committed are all signs of a spiritually mature approach to life, knowing that awakening isn’t linear, but is instead cyclical.
4. Present-Moment Focus
Having a present-moment focus means finding the doorway to peace, freedom, and love right here and right now. The mind tends to imagine that peace, freedom, and love can only be found in the future, in some ideal situation. But spiritual maturity is about finding the gateway to freedom in whatever situation we find ourselves in within life. As Buddha said, “Only here can we find true liberation.”
5. Down-to-Earth and Integrated
At the start of our inner paths, it’s normal to compartmentalize our spirituality and file it away neatly from the rest of our “everyday mundane lives.” But at some point, to move into more spiritual maturity, we need to merge both the sacred and mundane – and that is what making our spiritual lives down-to-earth and integrated is all about.
The best way to directly experience all that we learn about is to actively incorporate it into our life at work, our personal relationships, and even the way we run our households. In this way, our spiritual paths aren’t merely a separate practice we dedicate 15 minutes to in the morning – they become our entire lives. In other words, everything we do is done in service to the divine.
6. Questioning Everything and Being a Freethinker
Being able to question those who teach us is the next aspect of spiritual maturity. Blindly following or naively believing everything that others in positions of authority say isn’t a wise idea. In fact, it’s very dangerous to go along with what certain spiritual teachers and gurus say without asking our own questions. (This is how cults and destructive groupthink are born.)
We need to be freethinkers and find the truth out for ourselves directly. We need to be the wolf, not the sheep, and sniff out what’s true from what’s false – it’s our right to do this!
There’s no point in accepting everything someone says without experiencing it for ourselves (yes, especially if they appear all-knowing and in a special place of high authority!). Questioning and cultivating spiritual discernment are of utmost priority and importance and are central to spiritual maturity.
7. Ability to Be Flexible
Being flexible means understanding that there’s no one “perfect and absolute way” to walk the spiritual path. Dogmatically holding onto beliefs about how something “should” or “shouldn’t” be done on the awakening journey is just a sign of immaturity and an egocentric fixation on beliefs. Flexibility allows for nuance, differentiation, and diversity which fosters an environment of peace and tolerance. Rejecting others because of what they believe creates fear and resentment, which is certainly not a sign of spiritual maturity.
8. Embracing Polarities
Black-and-white thinking results in a dualistic and painfully divided way of seeing and experiencing the world. However, when we learn how to embrace opposites and polarities: human and divine, sacred and wild, happy and sad, angry and peaceful, right and wrong – we find harmony and wholeness. We touch into non-duality, which is a mature way of relating to life because it goes beyond the mind and into the very nature of being.
9. We-Centered Instead of Me-Centered
Spiritual maturity is about moving from a me-centered way of experiencing life to a we-centered approach where we can experience the interconnectedness of everything. When we are in relationship with life, we find a sense of harmony and flow. But when we are in resistance to life (the opposite of relating), we feel cut off, disconnected, and alone. Spiritual maturity involves moving from resistance to relating with the various situations, people, and experiences that emerge, no matter how difficult.
10. Embracing the Simple Things in Life
Wanting to look, behave, or feel special and “super enlightened” or “extraordinarily awakened” is a sign of immaturity and that the ego is at work behind the scenes. Embracing ordinariness and the simple things in life, on the other hand, is a sign of spiritual maturity because it embraces ourselves and life as it is. There’s no need to behave a certain way, look a certain way, speak in a special way, or add or subtract anything from life. Life is seen to be fine as it is. The ordinary is extraordinary. Spiritual maturity means being comfortable with being yourself just as you are and operating in a very down-to-earth way.
11. Nondual Consciousness
Nondual consciousness sees unity within everything, and as such, it’s a sign of spiritual maturity. When we live through the mind, we divide and cut up the world into concepts and ideas, missing the wholeness that is already right here, right now, underneath thought. This tendency to divide the world and to operate from an isolated little “me” (which is another thought) is at the root of suffering.
As such, nondual consciousness is a return back to life-as-it-is before the overactive mind came in and dissected and divided it into various labels, beliefs, and ideas. The return to this way of seeing is what has been referred to through the ages as the path back to heaven, freedom, oneness, enlightenment, or Self-Realization.
You can read more about this topic in my article on non-duality.
Spiritual maturity isn’t something you can artificially cultivate, force into your life, or wear as a badge of honor. Instead, it’s a byproduct of being sincere, committed, humble, and open-hearted on the spiritual awakening journey. In other words, spiritual maturity is something that is earned through consistent effort and a lot of trial and error.
I hope this guide has helped to illuminate the various aspects of spiritual maturity so that you can see areas of your own life that may be imbalanced or unhealthy (or areas in which you’ve grown!).
I’d love to hear your reflections in the comments!