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16 February 2010 @ 09:29 pm
"What is a grown-up?"  
One of my grad students came in this morning and said, "This question came up in class [Adult Ed] last night, and no one could satisfactorily define it. 'What is a grown-up?'"

My first question was, "Grown-up or adult?" and my second was, "If grad students who study this sort of thing can't answer it, why are you asking me?"

Anyway, my answer was, "A grown-up is someone who assesses risks and rewards before taking action, and acts to minimize the risks and maximize the rewards, while doing as little harm to others as possible."

So, for example, it's acceptably grown-up to put your best foot forward when applying for and interviewing for a job, even though it's almost certain that if you are hired, someone else will be harmed by not being hired. It's not acceptable or grown-up to actively sabotage another candidate. By my definition.

However, I don't study these things, and so I'm probably wrong, and so I would be interested in how you would define a grown-up.
Johnjohnpalmer on February 17th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
I think the biggest thing is part of what you describe... a (grown-up or adult -whatever you choose) is someone who understands the idea of responsibility - what you do affects you, and the world around you, and who chooses to exercise that responsibility.

Note that there's always some fuzziness here. No one *always* exercises responsibility. Everyone is occasionally blind to responsibility. It's like defining a good/evil person - no one is always good, no one is always evil. But, a person who generally considers things responsibly is grown-up/adult/acting maturely.

The other side of this is, sometimes the definition isn't meant to be right, it's just meant to define the aspect you're looking at right now. So, by defining a grown-up or adult is actually a way of saying "right now, I want to consider X or Y quality."