You need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life. You ironically need a very strong ego structure to let go of your ego. You need to struggle with the rules more than a bit before you throw them out. You only internalize values by butting up against external values for a while. All of this builds the strong self that can positively obey Jesus – and “die to itself.” In fact, far too many (especially women and disadvantaged people) have lived very warped and defeated lives because they tried to give up a self that was not there yet.
This is an important paradox for most of us, and the two sides of this paradox must be made clear for the very health of individuals, families, and cultures. It is crucial for our own civilization right now. We have too many people on the extremes: some make a “sacrificial” and heroic life their whole identity, and end up making everyone else around them sacrifice so that they can be sacrificial and heroic. Others, in selfish rebellion and without any training in letting go, refuse to sacrifice anything. Basically, if you stay in the protected first half of life beyond its natural period, you become a well-disguised narcissist or an adult infant (who is also a narcissist!) – both of whom are often thought to be successful “good old boys” by the mainstream culture. No wonder that Bill Plotkin calls us a “patho-adolescent culture.”
From “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” by Richard Rohr