Mosaic Part 6: how the facets co-exist

row of headless Buddhas in Thailand

So, now that I’ve introduced maturity and explained why I believe development toward maturity would be better described by “facets” (that all co-exist at the same time) rather than “stages” (that one moves through in a consistent order), it’s time for me to explain how this co-existence works.

At the heart of this concept is the contrast between facets that are relatively “latent” or in the background versus those that are “manifest” or in the foreground of attention. I’ve used a variety of metaphors to help picture this, and I think my current favourites are the related metaphors of a facet “taking centre stage” or “moving into the spotlight.” In any case, the important element is that the growth edge in our movement toward maturity will usually be consciously focused on one particular facet of development for a given season of time. BUT, this will not be the facet’s only “fifteen minutes of fame”; rather, such seasons in the spotlight will return over and over again. AND, the kinds of thinking and assumptions characteristic of a facet’s past season in the sun will not disappear but will remain a part of the background chatter of our mind.

a facet moves to centre stage when our present level of maturity struggles to make sense of our experience of the world around us

What then, you might ask, leads a facet to move onto centre stage? I would suggest that this takes place when some relevant area of our lives begins to repeatedly rub up against the limits of our maturity in one facet (or one aspect of a particular facet to be more annoyingly specific), or, in other words, when our present level of maturity struggles to make sense of our experience of the world around us.*

Here’s an example: you’re a person whose allegiance to a worldview (thanks to your family or your TV habits or both) leads you to having strong feelings of fear and disgust toward Muslims, whom you tend to view as “enemies” or “outsiders” – i.e. people “not like you” who you do not believe are really deserving of the same respect and protection that you and the people like you should receive. However, your church, somehow ignoring you, gets involved with sponsoring a refugee family from Syria. In spite of your resistance, you meet this newcomer Muslim family, hear their stories, and are faced with the conflicting truth that they are indeed very human, even likeable, and worthy of care and respect. This forces the relational facet, and more specifically, the aspect of that facet that guards the fence of who is considered an insider or an outsider, into the spotlight. You start working through the tension and begin to integrate a new perspective. You get bigger in your understanding (making room for the insight that now at least some Muslims should be welcomed into your neighbourhood and given a chance to avoid war and other risks).

So one facet takes centre stage and becomes the focus of personal growth toward maturity. At the same time, however, the facets are not by any means entirely separate from each other. So maturing in one facet will often stir up a growth edge in another facet, which will then work its way onto centre stage, nudging the previously spotlighted facet into the background – for a time.


1. Facets, unlike stages of development, co-exist – are always present in all of us – though usually one facet will get our conscious attention, will move into the spotlight, for a season.

2. What brings a facet into the spotlight is when our present level of maturity struggles to make sense of our experience of the world around us in regard to the themes, assumptions and questions of a particular facet.

row of headless Buddhas in Thailand

*Those familiar with Thomas Kuhn and his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), will recognize that this pattern is, not coincidentally, akin to the notion of “paradigm shifts,” and both are akin to the even more basic cognitive notions discussed by those like Piaget regarding “assimilation and accommodation.” In other words, the basic mechanism here is a well tested principle in how we develop in relationship to our increasing experience of the world around us.

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