Peter Pan syndrome is bad for our faith

(Photo: Unsplash/Allen Taylor)

You may have heard stories about Peter Pan. Stories of a whimsical and free-spirited, magical boy who could fly. With his mythical adventures in Neverland enchanting children and adults alike for generations.

For many, Peter's most intriguing, perhaps even envious quality, is his ability to never grow old. He sacrifices personal relationships and adult responsibility in exchange for eternal youth and imagination. Posing the question, what are the dangers of refusing to grow-up?

Dr Dan Kiley, a Psychoanalyst, coined the term Peter Pan Syndrome in his book, The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up (1983). The term encapsulates the behaviours associated with adults who choose to neglect their adult responsibilities.

Subsequently, a flurry of pop-culture psychology enthusiasts sought to address this concept, dubbing Peter Pan Syndrome as a cultural icon symbolising both youthful innocence and escapism.

Delayed onset of adulthood

In conversations with the older generations, those in their 40 plus years, I have noticed a reoccurring theme regarding their opinion of youth. Their anecdotes from yesteryear cast a shade of disapproval on the lack of maturity of ensuing generations.

It is evident amongst young adults that we are leaving education later and postponing marriage and parenthood beyond the years of our predecessors. Scientists now conclude that adulthood does not begin until 24 years. Hence posing the question of are we in a crisis of delayed onset of adulthood?

Psychologist, Dr Meg Jay in her book The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them (2012), calls twenty-year-olds to use their time wisely.

She suggests that our twenties are the defining decade of adulthood and that 80% of life's defining moments take place by age 35. Jay gives twenty-year-olds a swift kick in the pants to motivate them to take responsibility for their lives instead of frivolously wasting their time pleasure-seeking.

Apart from taking longer to adult, and perhaps disappointing the older generations, there are significant personal dangers for individuals delaying growing-up.

Milk and solids

As Christian twenty-something-year-olds, why should we be concerned about overcoming Peter Pan Syndrome?

In Hebrews chapter 5, verses 12-14, we receive a call for spiritual maturation – a call to grow-up. An infantile faith, satisfied with passively receiving the word, stunts our growth and results in a deficient understanding about the teaching of righteousness.

In contrast, those who have invested in understanding the fundamental truths of God's word – the Bible – will be matured. Spoon-fed spirituality cannot replace the personal intentionality or responsibility, required for a relationship with Christ.

The problem with these immature Christians is not that they require milk nor that they require relearning the fundamental truth. Rather it is their lack of willingness to accept responsibility and practice the teachings they are taught. Hence, they are not exercising their faith and consequentially not producing acts of righteousness.

However, mature Christians who exercise their faith are trained to discern good from evil. Through investing time in reading the Bible not only will we be transformed morally, but our thoughts and actions will be too.

Hence, as Christian young adults, we will be matured and will develop immunity to Peter Pan Syndrome. Through building a resilient faith, we will grow-up to be responsible adults whom contribute positively to society.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 12, Paul encourages the Corinthian church to put their childish ways behind them.

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me"

We rightfully treasure the youthful innocence and freedom of childhood. However, as we grow older we find ourselves accepting increased responsibility not only for ourselves but for others around us. Setting aside our childish ways, we may grow not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

Adulting life hack: learn the Word. It could save you decades of wasted and immature living.

Courtesy of Press Service International