First, they seem to lack the ability to anticipate the consequences of their actions. I am often reminded of John Trevolta's character, Vinnie Barbarino from the Welcome Back, Kotter TV series. Good looking, charming Vinnie would be challenged for saying or doing something that was obviously going to get him into trouble and he would turn a truly surprised face to the camera, raise his shoulders and say, "Whaaat!" as though he had no idea what he had done wrong. And audience roared with laughter. It is far less funny in real life because these folks seem to have such a poorly developed sense of ethics or common sense or community that one despairs of how they will ever be safe on the streets.
The second, which magnifies the first, is extreme impulsivity. Truly, what pops into their heads seems to become a reality with no pause for that life-saving "on second thought." Ask, "What did you expect to happen when you did that?" and they seem truly confused by the question.
But those things get us all into trouble, don't they? Or folks would never say something they regret as they see the pain it caused, get in a fight with someone scary, eat or drink something that they know makes them ill, or quit a job before they had another one. We humans, especially young humans, learn much by working our way through the trouble we bring upon ourselves.
That is why the Bible says that certain traits or characteristics are enhanced through living a life in Christ. As we develop trust in God we become secure enough to start noticing the journey and challenges of those around us in more detail, making the process of developing sympathy, even empathy much easier. We see that our actions not only cause us pain and unpleasant consequences, but also cause harm to those we love and care about in our community of faith and in the larger community, so then we want to develop self-control. As we seek mentors among mature Christians who will with kindness and compassion nurture this trait in us, we become thankful for the gift, turning our face to God with thanksgiving. If we are wise, we will also remember that the blessing came out of our new understanding of our need, met by God, rather than because we are so smart or able.
My prayer today for us all: O, Holy Spirit of God, stir in us the desire to walk gently with those around us, growing in the gift of self-control, that what we still need to learn will not injure others. AMEN