Life Experience, Maturity, and Culture.

What is the difference between Life Experience, defined here as the accumulation of lessons learnt thru life events, and Maturity?

People do not tend to think about this question until it comes up in a conversation, so it is a good question I find to ask people randomly to see what their response it.  Their response usually indicates, to me anyhow, how intellectual and open minded they are.

My answer would be that life experience forms the basis of how we plan and execute new choices in our life.  Whereas maturity determines how we react to the consequences of those choices.

Among other answers a common one was that there is no difference between the two.  This I find highly incorrect.  This can best be explained using a grumpy old man.  He has surely had a lot of life experience, and learnt a lot along the way.  However he may feel spiteful or angry at the world for one reason or the other, and feel that he is entitled to act in an immature manner.  Just because he is experienced, does not make him mature.  He is mature by choice, or rather immature by choice.

Maturity is a mental plateau which typically is seen as a socially acceptable way to interact around others.  How you judge maturity I suppose would be relative to local acceptable ways of interacting.  Take for example an exotic ritual dance preformed by tribesmen in a remote tribe to pray for rain, which involves a ritualistic slaughter of a farm animal.  Chances are if you are reading this on my blog, you would find such a ritual odd and perhaps an immature concept.  But to the remote tribes people, this ritual, and the people performing in it, are likely highly respected customs, and therefore seen as mature and rational.  At the same time, a bitter old tribal medicine man, who maybe no longer believes in the ritual, would be seen as immature to his tribesmen, even though he may have himself preformed the ritual dozens of times in his life.

On that note, I got involved in a discussion regarding maturity being mainly cultural based.  In that some cultures are more mature than others.  The example given here was a redneck, who would have a temper tantrum in a store where as a more cultured person would likely act in a more mature manner.

I personally found this argument to be insulting and closed minded.  I feel that every individual is free to act individually, and develop their own thoughts on what is right and wrong individually.   However again this leads back to the same example with the remote tribe.  If all you are ever exposed to in your life is rednecks having temper tantrums in a store, then that is normal and accepted behavior.

That being said, if you were a redneck from the deep south, and you happened to be in a fancy New York restaurant, and you were having a temper tantrum, then yes, you would be out of your element and therefore acting in an immature manner compared to the company you are in.  But that has nothing to do with the person being a redneck.  I know some very polite and mature rednecks myself.  I also know some very immature and bratty rich upper class city slickers who would also throw a temper tantrum in a store if they got ripped off.

So I would argue that maturity is not cultural at all.  Maybe localized within socially considered norms, but not purely cultural.  Every person has the ability to overcome social norms and form his or her own opinions on things.  And often life experience can help develop that.