Language is a powerful tool. Subtle yet potent messages are delivered, and most of the time, we fail to even notice
Small children have a certain word they use to describe adults—grownups. You don’t usually hear adults describing themselves utilizing this word; it seems like a juvenile term. Yet it appears in Webster’s dictionary, and after all, the kids must have heard it from someone, some adult at some point. I’ve never liked the word ‘grownups’. Not because it sounds so immature but because of what it implies.
If we refer to kids as growing up, day by day, year by year, that makes sense; they are continually developing and constantly discovering and refining talents, always improving upon who they are. We expect that from children. We watch them throw tantrums over the silliest things and long for the days when they will ‘grow out of it’. We see teenagers rebelling against their parents for no particular reason other than for the sake of rebelling, and we yearn for a time when they will have ‘grown past it.’ But then, supposedly, at some magical moment, people become ‘grownups’. Doesn’t the word imply that we, as adults, are finished growing and developing, are done with trying to become better?
When older people say, ‘when I grew up. . .’, what does that mean? And now they’ve completed their growth process? They’re no longer growing?
G-d wants us to be people who are constantly growing, always raising the bar of our spirituality.
Have you ever met an old friend or acquaintance after not seeing them for five or ten years? You notice and even tell them how ‘they haven’t changed a bit.’ The person who had a bad temper usually still has that temper. The one who couldn’t stop talking about themselves and their accomplishments still seems to have that arrogance.
We all know how hard it is to change. Rav Yisrael Salanter, the father of modern mussar, character development, (circa 1800’s) once said that it is easier to learn through all 63 volumes of the Talmud than to change even one trait within our personality and character. Thus, we give in to our natures—‘I’ll never change’, and we give up on the idealism and greatness we aspired to when we were younger. We became ‘grownups’.
But this is not how we are supposed to live. As long as we are still breathing, we have much to accomplish. Every day of our lives, nay, every moment, we are to be growing, developing, improving. We must never become grownups. Whether we are 8 years old or 88, we must always be growing up
So, we need to get the ball rolling in our lives and continually grow. Here are a few ideas:
** Find out about opportunities for kindness in your community, like Meals on Wheels, and volunteer once a week.
** Choose a topic within Torah and begin a daily study plan, even if just for five minutes. You think you can’t accomplish much from a five minute daily session? I know people who have finished the entire Chumash, Five Books of the Torah, from just such a session.
** Study a little bit about the prayers service and pray one prayer fully and sincerely every day.
** Work on improving your smile and greet one person warmly per day.
The list is endless. There are numerous small things we can do to grow. We just need to choose an area and run with it. And it doesn’t take too much time.
A real grownup, a true adult is never grownup—He is always yearning to grow. . .UP!
Rabbi Boruch Leff is a vice principal at Torah Institue in Baltimore. His book, Forever His Students(Targum/Feldheim) contains practical and powerful contemporary insights, inspired by the teachings of Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, of blessed memory. For info on the book, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org