Two thousand or so years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a younger student of his. That student’s name was Titus and Paul’s letter to him survives to this day as the New Testament book of Titus. In that letter, there’s a sentence that speaks volumes about the character that we ought to be developing as we move the autumn of life.
Here’s the sentence, “Older men are to self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance.”
At lease four character qualities emerge in that sentence (for those who would like to see it in context, it’s Titus 2:2).
First, there is intentionality. He is to self-controlled. In short, this means that he says and does, in every situation, what he intends to say and do. All of us have had those moments in our lives when our mouth has gotten ahead of our brain, and usually that doesn’t end well. We’ve also had those moments where we have acted on impulse without pausing for deliberate thought. However, as we mature, we should become increasing focused on saying and doing what we mean to say and do. Less reactiveness, more wisdom!
Second, there is influence. He is to be worthy of respect. Someone has said that as we get older, we either get better or we get bitter. There may be something to that. No one is interested in the thoughts and ideas of an angry, bitter old man (or woman). On the other hand, who among us has not benefited personally in our own journey from that wise elder who has seen life flow on by and who has taken it all in. May we strive to be people who, as our lives unfold, live and love in such a way that we earn the respect of the respectable, ultimately becoming, ourselves, the object of well-placed respect.
Third, there is intelligence. He is to be sensible. Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Integrity is often quoted as saying, “The truth is always your friend.” As we progress through our years, we should develop a closer and closer relationship with the truth. It is good to be idealistic and even visionary, but ideals and vision must always build on reality as it is, and the older adult should have the vision that accumulates from the years of life experience to help ground and guide the idealism of the young.
Finally, there is integrity. He is to be sound. Reliable. Trustworthy. Anchored in those three virtues of faith, love, and endurance. Wooden beams in old houses can be rotten, termite-infested, and prone to failure. Or they can be that tough old beam that has stood the test of time and continues to hold the entire structure together. We are responsible, as we move through life, to do all that we can to remain solid. Injury and illness can surely disrupt us (you’re probably reading this in a doctors office!), but good attention to our own well-begin can play an important role in our making it to our maturity with an intact ability to impact the lives of others.
So, for your community, your church, and your family, if you are an older adult, or one day hope to be one, set these goals for yourself. Because, after all, we’re not getting any younger!
McGregor Baptist Church
3750 Colonial Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33966