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Getting old has well-known downsides. Yet with age come the many benefits of maturity — beyond the senior discounts.

“I work with a lot of people in their 80s, and they don’t look like they're having that much fun,” my son recently told me. Getting old has well-known downsides. Yet with age come the many benefits of maturity — beyond the senior discounts.

A man in a fable was tantalized by reports of huge diamond deposits being discovered in far off lands. Athirst for riches, he sold his lovely, productive farm and left his family. After many years, the man returned empty-handed and disillusioned only to die as he reached his former farm. The present owner found the body and gathering him up to take him to his neglected family, he saw the dazzling sparkles of a magnificent cache of raw diamonds. Yes, the greedy man had left all that was good for a fruitless search for what he had in his own backyard all the time.

Gratefully, most mature folks come to realize their treasure is to be found in their own backyard in the form of spouse, family, friends and career. They may never have achieved the prominence or wealth they once dreamed of. But they understand that “real” life happens quietly and privately and “real” success occurs day by day in being a loving spouse, a caring daughter, a nurturing grandma and an excellent accountant, salesperson, homemaker or nurse.

Mature people know that a modest home which is fully paid for is far grander than an imposing mansion with a costly mortgage.

Mature people have lived long enough to reap the fruits of their priorities and to change what they got wrong. Who can forget Harry Chapin’s haunting song “Cat’s In The Cradle” about a dad who repeatedly promises his son they’ll spend time together, but puts him off with presents and promises? “But there were planes to catch and bills to pay. He learned to walk while I was away.” The son always responded, “You know I’m gonna be like you, Dad. You know I’m gonna be like you.” When the father grew old and pleaded, "When you coming home, son?" his son answered, "I don't know when, but we'll get together then, Dad. We're gonna have a good time then.” The son had indeed become just like his dad.

Mature people tend to have made peace with themselves. They’ve seen themselves in life’s mirrors, sometimes to good effect, but also showing their flaws and weaknesses. Accordingly, they have likely eliminated many of their grosser defects and come to accept others.

Experience has taught them what they can do and what they can’t. The resulting self-knowledge has brought acceptance of themselves and made them comfortable in their skin. Oftentimes, this brings acceptance of others as well. Instead of griping about faults and blemishes, mature couples have learned to choose the incomparable comfort and joy flowing from a choice relationship.

Time also tends to polish rough spots. You’ve discarded the quick temper that you let overcome you to say and do things you regretted in earlier days. Criticisms that sprang easily to your tongue have been banished by understanding and affection. Optimism and hope replaced gloomy fears.

Experience gives you eyes to appreciate God’s wisdom in putting boundaries around sexual expression and the need for moral order in society.

You’ve probably learned to look outside yourself more, to care less about your little life and more about your daughter’s or neighbor’s problems. Like me you may be working on talking less and listening more.

7 comments on this story

The choices and tradeoffs you’ve made have brought you to this point. Those who honestly aspired to running marathons usually end up running marathons. If you had truly wanted to be fundamentally different you’d have changed your choices. While disease, accident or the actions of others can derail our plans and turn us aside from our intentions and goals, it is rare for someone to become a person wholly different than what their heart desired.

Reconciling yourself to your past and to what you’ve done and what you’ve become are essential to happiness. Looking back over our mistakes and failures can be painful. But we can and should also turn those reflections to redemptive experiences.

The blessings of maturity are indeed the compensation for old age.