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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Leaping A Crevasse

Many years ago, at a professional conference I attended a motivational speaker offered up this comment about risk taking: “If you intend to leap a crevasse, it’s best to do it in one jump.” Wry and truthful. I was thinking about that remark the other day in a somewhat different context—less about risk taking and more about emotional growth and moral maturity.


You may recall a post from a few weeks back quoting Fr. Richard Rohr’s observation that humanity is still in its adolescence. It reminded me of the very first post I wrote, entitled Everything we know about dating we learned in Junior High. It was, I hope, a cute and slightly provocative essay about our tendency to revert to certain, often immature behaviors when we are in awkward or difficult emotional situations. Our actions and reactions at such times can reflect patterns we acquired at a time in our lives when we were not adequately prepared for the social, biological, emotional and intellectual challenges we faced. Adolescence is at best an awkward interval when our hormones, and our emotions are more persuasive than our brains. If we are being honest with ourselves many of us have felt the insecurities of adolescence at some point in our adult lives and hopefully, we have grown enough to ruefully acknowledge that we are capable of feeling foolish or inadequate if even for a moment in time. Some, however, have never moved much beyond that stage of development. Faced with adversity, difficult moral decisions, challenges to self-image or sense of self-worth, some of us behave just as we did in Junior High.


When we talk about political clans or cults, we see a mirror of the cliques that govern adolescent social life; the social stratifications that established a pecking order many still observe in their adult life. Where you a Jock, a Nerd, a Goth, a Cheerleader? Maybe those terms are dated but we can see the same juvenile, shunning, name calling, bullying and other ridiculous behaviors we learned in our teens still at work in adults who it appears never moved much beyond those formative years. And listening in on social media groups embracing evil conspiracies around every corner I can’t help but feel as if I am watching a darker more vicious version of the same gossip and scare mongering tactics I thought we had all outgrown. But we haven’t—at least not all of us and even then not all of the time.


We are older—should know better, but as I said earlier, what scares us, what poses a threat, whether real or imagined—can bring out the best and sadly the worst in us. Spend a little time on some forums frequented by real adolescents—not just those occupying adult bodies. It won’t take long for you to recognize how little we really understood, how unprepared we were for life, and how hard we worked to prove to the world—and to ourselves, that we were grown up, that we had a handle on everything and that nothing scared us. Listen in on the observations these young people offer up on any and all subjects with all the conviction and absolutism that 13 years affords them, and you are hearing the adults they will become unless they grow beyond their ignorance and inexperience.


I recognize my own arrogance and insecurity at that age—both of which I believed I had successfully hidden from my peers, but now see we all harbored and were all desperately hoping to conceal. So, when I see, read and hear about the same kinds of behaviors being practiced by 30-, 40- and 50-year old’s—I know whereof it came. Which leads me to ask, why is it that some learn to let go of those self-delusional and destructive attitudes while others are stuck? I don’t claim to have all the answers to that or any other question but I do think that we need to get our sharp edges worn off. By that I mean we need to go out in the world and be exposed to those who are different from us—think and act differently, those that we find kinship with and those we don’t. We need to experience real love, and real pain and be blessed to move though these feelings with integrity. And we need to learn that what we thought and what we knew at age 13, 14 and 15, isn’t necessarily so or all that there is to life. That is how we grow. We can’t stay in Junior High forever, sometimes we just need to leap the crevasse.

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