The nature versus nurture debate has been around now for a long time. On the nature side of the dichotomy, you have the theory that human personality and temperament are inherited through our genes and biology. On the nurture side, we have the theory that it is actually our environment and childhood experiences that shape who we are. I believe that nothing shapes us, we shape ourselves.

Is human nature inherently good or hopelessly bad? I don’t buy into the theory that human behaviour is determined by this gene or that gene. This is just another pessimistic approach akin to Freud’s pessimistic view that humans are basically bad and the helpless victims of unconscious urges. I believe that our nature is good but when we encounter threats in our lives then we submerge to protect ourselves. We are not victims but creators of wise responses to an unwise world. The greater the threat, then, wisely, the greater the submergence.

Scientists will be forever searching for the evil gene or the alcoholic gene but are doomed to failure because they are looking in the wrong place. For example, there is no such thing as evil but there is such a thing as evil behaviour. When we talk about evil, then surely, we mean evil behaviour on the part of someone. When we confuse a person with their behaviour, we have no hope of ever understanding their dark side. To understand evil behaviour, we have to examine that person’s life from conception to the present day. All behaviour will then make sense but only when understood from a metaphorical perspective.

I have three great kids who are so different from each other that it amazes me sometimes. The truth is that each of my children has a different Mother and a different Father. Our first child arrived at a time when we were able to devote all our attention to her. We had no worries or major life upsets. Our second child arrived when I was still grieving my Dad who had recently died of cancer. I was in a very different place when parenting my second child. Our third child was conceived during an even more stressful period of our lives. My wife’s mother died a horrible death due to motor neuron disease and we were also in a financial quagmire that was beginning to seem inescapable.

I have learned as a Father that effective parenting is nurturing each of my children’s unique nature. My kids have three different fathers because I nurture each one differently. I wouldn’t dream of parenting each one the same way. Remember that an act of comparison is an act of rejection. The nature-nurture divide needn’t be either/or. I think it is both/and. I was present at all three of my children’s births. I couldn’t help but notice that each one already had a unique temperament formed. Maybe temperament is formed in the womb and personality in response to the outside world?

What is your response to the nature/nurture debate? Do you see yourself as a victim or creator? Thank you for reading Friday’s Food 4 Thought,

With respect,