The stages of adult life

In his book Transition, Charles M Sell looks at the various stages of adulthood. He attempts to explain some of the confusion, hurt, or depression adults feel while going through life. The book consists of 286 pages (267 reading pages, the rest bibliography) and was written in 1985. The book is presented in a systematic way and takes a closed look at adult life. Transition can be confusing at times, but need not to be feared. Even the transition from high school to college can have us a little worried, but transition are inevitable, because nothing can stay the same way forever. What are the transition of adult life? Sell places transition into three areas:

1. Young adulthood 2. Middle adulthood 3. older adulthood YOUNG ADULTHOOD This stage includes choosing a vocation, the need for intimacy, courtship, marriage, parenthood, singleness, moral development. By this time the young adult starts getting cues from others that his life’s elevator has stopped at another floor. This adds up to excitement, particularly when coupled with freedom that has been newly acquired.

The young adult is ready to sail away into adult life, without all the limitations, self – doubt and confusion of adolescence. Not that anxiety and fear are absent, but young adults have confidence unmatched by any other stage of life. This confidence feeds his activism. Young adults have a basic trust in themselves and their own capacities, even the most painful and greatest disappointments, they are typically able to pick themselves up, pull themselves together and prepared to try again. He quotes William Perry “young people attempt to test them. Values are not mere ideas, unrelated to life behaviour. Not worked out, they may not be unimportant but also wrong”.


First, the priceless idealism of young adulthood should be encouraged. It may be very costly for society and the church if it fails to encourage the mining and refining of that valuable commodity. Encouraging and not ignoring idealism may repress the creative activity of God and quench his spirit. The bleak result for the young adult who denies it is a narcissistic preoccupation with self and the possibility of later regret.

The young adults should be encouraged to resolve inner conflicts for himself. Too many young people are discouraged by older adults who press their life-style upon them. In encouraging young adults we must direct them to faith in the Lord, even they characteristically trust themselves. Faith does not always reshape the world, but it does make acceptance of conditions as they are easier. Disillusionment, depression and struggle are part of the baggage that go along with the journey on planet earth.


Developmentalist Erik Erikson stresses the importance of intimacy in the adult development. Learning to be intimate, I his scheme, is the major adult task. Trying personal development to the physical and sexual, Erikson places the sexually self at a core. The young adult must learn the art of sexually relating in marriage, but Erikson leaves no doubt that he is not just talking about the physical. Intimacy includes the ability to be committed to a close and lasting relationship and the willingness to sacrifice and compromise as those relationship require. That capacity is necessary for friendship and partnership as well as marriage.

Christians theology affirms the adults need for intimacy. “It is not good for a man to be alone” (Gen 2: 18). Learning the art of intimacy in young adulthood is as necessary as learning language In early childhood. Failure can be serious, the only alternative to intimacy is isolation. Loneliness can be a tragic human condition. Persons who cannot be intimate often commit savage acts against themselves or others.


This stage focuses on mid-life crises, vocational problems, physical changes, marital matters, grief, widowhood, dependent parents, and rebellious children. Mid-life as a concept is comparatively new. Before 1900, people thought of being little and then of being old. Now, mid- life is certainly a life period, but is it a crisis? Some say no. Harvard psychologist Jerome Keegan says it is more a part of culture than of personal development. The church on the corner of this mid -life crossroad has an important role to play. Middle adults who stop there need to be alerted about the perils of haphazardly yielding themselves to repressed desires, dreams, and interests. The church must help them to maintain a continuing, exciting search for God’s direction.

Authenticity and intimacy can comprise the most noble gifts the church can give its adults. Above all, Christians should be willing to face the truth. God’s forgiveness allows them to admit to past mistakes. God’s grace fosters a willingness to be honest with yourself and with others. Being genuine means being willing to admit a mid-life upheaval if it occurs. Apparently, many members of Christ’s church are embarrassed by mid life confusion. They equate maturity with stability. When they get destabilized they wonder where their faith went. The person who is best position to grow is one who admits what is happening inside and shares the struggle in order to understand and overcome forces that might otherwise overwhelm.


Older adulthood transitions includes attitudes towards aging, becoming a senior citizen, coping with loss and with psychological disorders, physical changes, grand parenting death spouse and institutionalization. Old age is an adventure. People cheat themselves when they squeeze out on the passion and excitement and focus on the illness, isolation , infirmity and death. Old age is not inherently miserable nor inherently sublime. Like every stage of life it has problems, joys fears and potentials. The scripture mention its dark side. “The evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, I have no delight in them”. (Eccles 12:1). And the Psalmist concurs: As for days of our lives, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength , eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow. (Ps 90: 10)


In this paper a lot have been said about ministering to adults, but what contribution will they make to the church? How will their energies and ideas be incorporated. The church like society gives an ambivalent reaction. The church seems at times to be a social institution, it may see more threat than promise in young people. I particularly like the way the writer uses scripture to illustrate his points. It is always interesting to see how the bible deals with various aspects of our lives.

Sell also gives an interesting way of understanding the modern courtship process. There are four stages, each one narrower than the previous. It is as follows: The book is very structured and completely relevant, it has brought new meanings to the way I view adult life. Christians pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God should hope and pray that all their transitions will be transformations.

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David from Healtheappointments:

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