Turns out I have more to say about aging.
After my last post’s lamentation about how our physical bodies change as we age, and how much work we exert to maintain our health (which you can read about here), I started to think about the upside to aging.
As time whittles away the physical benefits of youth by exacting a toll on our energy, stamina, and strength, often our hearts and minds experience the opposite effect.
And that can offset the distress we may feel when we look in the mirror.
I’ve identified 12 benefits of aging, although all the benefits probably do not apply to every person. It’s also possible that the aging process produces the opposite result from the one I describe.
In no particular order:
1. We realize how much we don’t know.
Doesn’t it seem like the more we learn, the more we grasp just how much more there is to know? There’s always another subject or perspective to explore. Understanding this, it becomes easier to admit when we don’t know something, or need help.
2. We become less judgmental.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve made tons of mistakes. Sometimes I had an inkling I was making them, and other times they were made with a naiveté as I navigated my way through adulthood. I’ve learned from all of them. As we get older, we recognize the freedom and right others have to do the same. Only God is judge, and we are not God.
3. We find it easier to forgive.
Anyone who’s been deeply wounded by another knows full well how difficult forgiving can be, even though we are called to forgive others just as God forgives us. As we age, and realize how often we’ve needed forgiveness, it becomes easier to extend it to others. We also recognize how precious and short our lives are, and how much joy is sacrificed when grievances are not released in forgiveness.
4. We become more compassionate.
Life hurts. There are many joys, but there are also many fears, anxieties, losses and disappointments. No matter how we try to avoid pain, it’s inescapable. Aging grows our capacity to be empathetic and show compassion to those who suffer. Even if the circumstances are unfamiliar, the suffering of others touches our wounds, past or present.
5. We become more grateful.
When I was young, I fully expected to grow up, enjoy good health, have a family and a job. It never occurred to me that those were all blessings and not guarantees. I am well aware of that now. As we age, we become more mindful of the people and things we cherish, and we find ourselves engaged in more frequent prayers of gratitude.
6. We become less wasteful.
My parents lived through the Depression and knew what it was like to live without. My mother routinely smoothed out aluminum foil for later reuse and set teabags aside for a second cup. As we age, we realize just how much we have. And how much we waste. I too, now wash plastic utensils and repurpose items I would have thrown away a decade ago.
7. We become more confident and resilient.
Nothing shores up confidence more than facing and overcoming challenge or hardship. Life hands us both. And as we survive one crucible after another, we stand taller and shed the insecurities that eroded belief in our abilities.
8. We become better at “letting go”.
Standing on the ground of today, and taking the long look back through all the yesterdays, we see how many people, places and things we’ve already let go; sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not. Letting go may be painful but it doesn’t kill us, and sometimes it sets us on a new path we’re grateful for later.
9. We become more discerning.
Thanks to what we’ve experienced and learned, we become better able to detect authenticity. As Marcus Aurelius stated, “The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.” We all have our blind spots, but they become fewer.
10. We become more sensitive.
Anybody else cry more easily? Commercials with soldiers, babies or puppies can bring me to tears after three chords of the accompanying music. Why is this? I used to think it was hormones, but perhaps it’s because our hearts recognize the exquisite poignancy of life’s moments, and that there is beauty everywhere.
11. We become more willing to try new things.
As we age, we certainly know what we like and don’t like. But then there’s a gray zone of possibility, of things we’re eager or at least willing to try. Once we truly grasp how short live is, and how tomorrow is not guaranteed, sometimes there’s even an urgency to have new experiences. Hence, the Bucket List.
12. Our faith becomes stronger.
For me, this is probably the most significant benefit of getting older. As faith deepens, we realize God is sovereign, His words are wise, prayer works, forgiveness frees, and love wins. And best of all, in the midst of all our striving, there is peace, comfort and rest in Him.
In short, our life experiences simultaneously sharpen and soften us, crystallize and blur our perspectives, amplify and minimize circumstances. Aging is a complex and mysterious process, unique to each person.
How has aging changed you? Which benefits can you claim? Has aging produced the opposite of any of the benefits I described? And do you tend to focus more on the upside or downside of aging?
And if I missed any benefits of aging, please add to the conversation in the comment section below!
Scripture for Reflection
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 7:10
Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Turns out I have more to say about aging.