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This article isn't really about what the title says. It's about aging in general, and how it affects our various weaknesses (and how we deal with them). But a tendency to get grumpier as you get older (especially, but not exclusively, for men) is probably one of the most classic examples of this.

I used to think that grumpy old people were people who were bitterly dissatisfied with their lives and the fact that they no longer had any way to go back and change it. There may be some truth in that, but I personally find very few things that I would change in my life if I were to have the ability to go back and change them, and still I battle with being grumpy. (It's not really the scope of this article, but I think that a more likely cause for the development of negative aspects of our personality as we grow older is that we become freer of worries about what others think, and we gain more confidence to act selfishly if we feel so inclined.)

I read somewhere that as people grow older there is a tendency to become grumpier, but that there are also a few people who actually manage to become more CHEERFUL as they grow older too, possibly as they become more determined to overcome the grumpy stereotype (and possible because they are just a different personality type to begin with).

We have just finished our first big reunion in more than ten years (and maybe in as much as twenty years), and it gave me an opportunity to observe the "old school" alongside the "new school" in our movement. I noticed that the younger members were vibrant, enthusiastic, and full of energy, whereas there were the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) signs of aging in all of us older members. I could see that each of us had, over the years, grown into behaviour patterns and attitudes that are probably never going to leave us. Of course, it was easiest to see the negative patterns and attitudes, but there were probably many more positives, which is what made the reunion an overall resounding success.

Nevertheless, with these negatives, I could see that each of us had picked up certain habits in our youth that were often pointed out to us over the years, but with which we have had limited success (or maybe limited desire?) in reversing or stopping their growth. I think that living in community has been a great self-imposed discipline for overcoming these weaknesses, and that if we do turn into a group of grumpy old men (and women), it'll be far less grumpy, and far more positive in other areas than most groups of older people. But, in my opinion, autonomy has had a stronger impact on us oldies than on the younger members... in the short term. While being virtually on our own (or with our spouses), we have had the freedom to let those negatives develop at a time when they take the strongest effort to keep in check.

Being all together (except for Barry) in one location at one time was an exciting experience; but it definitely put a strain on habits which we have been allowing to formulate while on our own. It seemed to take more of an effort for many of us to be thoughtful about the needs of others, to restrain ourselves from being arbitrary in our decisions, to overcome lazy tendencies, etc.

So, now to the two points which I hope we can learn from these observations. One is that we oldies are probably going to need to make the most effort to be accountable to the larger community as we return to functioning as one worldwide community. We need to recognise and overcome the temptation to just sneak under the radar with regard to our besetting sins, and to pull ourselves out of whatever slump of indifference has developed about our own spiritual discipline (or lack of it).

The other lesson has to do with the younger members. If you see faults in us older members, remember that they developed in spite of our being members of a worldwide community for many years, where little personality foibles were constantly being pointed out in us. Some of you have NEVER experienced that up until now (although I realise that even two and three-person teams manage to point out a lot of faults). There is a lot more power for the larger community to come crashing down on you if you are NOT seriously dealing with your laziness, your tendency to talk too much (or to talk nonsense), your impatience, your little ego trips, or even your lack of personal hygiene and tidy housekeeping.

The more that we can become disciplined in EVERY area of our lives as young people, the more chance we have of growing into older people (if the world survives that long) who will not be difficult to get along with. We often talk about living good lives so that when we die we will not feel regrets about how we have lived. However, in old age, we have a chance even before we die to reap the rewards or shame that come from a life that has been well disciplined or has not been well disciplined.

We've seen some fairly extreme examples of grumpy old men whose personalities have grown out of rejecting the disciplines of the Jesus Christian community many years ago; but we can become at least mini-versions of that ourselves (and in some little ways some of us already have). Please make wise choices to be disciplined now, that will minimise the flaws that tend to burst out in embarrassing blooms when you get older. I think you will be very glad that you did when the time comes.

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