“Genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger” – Dr. Scott Kahan
The debate about nature versus nurture has always been intriguing to me. Are we a product of our environment, or do the genes of our parents and grandparents dictate our behaviors and decisions that we choose to make? There was a time when scholars were on the extremes of this topic. The theory was that human development was solely nurture or nature, but scholars today at least agree, “there are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view”. Instead, the conversation has shifted to “How much?” That is to say, given that genetics and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important?” (source)
Enter the recent turn of events for Bobbi Kristina, the daughter of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. Over the past week or so, I have had a number of conversations discussing how things have turned out for her. I have heard many people discuss that she never had a chance, that she was plagued by both her nature and her nurture, the odds were never in her favor. Between Whitney’s drug habit and Bobby’s behavior (up until recently and his old drug habit), many would say she was surrounded by both reckless behavior and inherited reckless genes. There are a few who would say it is appropriate to call her a victim of her circumstances.
Yet, there a number of people who would not let us forget that at some point, you have to take responsibility for your actions. Regardless of your nature or nurture, we all become adults and independent thinkers, believers, or actors in this game called life. We cannot blame our genetics or our environment once we grow up as a reason for our actions. One day our genetics will not matter and of course, our environment is something that we can change, therefore, we should all have the willpower and strength to overcome all odds?
Now wait one minute?Is it THAT easy? Problably not, but as ludicrious as it sounds to believe overcoming your nature/nurture is easy, we can rationalize on the other extreme as well.
When we look at the NFL, players, and the domestic violence in the league, who can deny that the environment of the NFL is a huge contributor. Not to mention the sex, money, and alcohol create a slew of other factors in players’ environment. Football as a whole is about aggression, strength, and to some extent, the attempt to dominate. So when we hear stories of athletes of acting aggressive many do not act surprised, or turn a blind eye. Before the recent Ray Rice incident, plenty of players, executives, and fans gladly rationalized actions by players, and continued to cheer them on when they were charged with heinous acts of abuse and violence. Ray Rice just got caught on video tape. Because this environment isn’t only exposed to these men when they make it to the “Pros”, but from when they are young boys growing into men through the system in junior high, high school, and even college. And if we look anecdotally at Chris Brown, after he was caught beating Rhianna, there were a number of stories and explanations that growing up watching his step-father incessantly beat his mother as some kind of explanation for his behavior. (Source)
So why does it feel yucky to even try to talk about how we “understand” where they are coming from? Because there are just as many people who come from similar circumstances (some worse) and the outcomes in their lives are drastically different. However, we do enjoy dissecting these scenarios as if there is a rhyme or reason to what is happening. No one knows the probability or the combination of different events, genes that could’ve made Bobbi Kristina’s situation differ, or her situation be better. What we do know, there are some things that are just simply out of our control and there are things that are in our control. We should focus on the positives when we can, and recognize the negatives and try to improve them when we can. What we should really try to avoid is always having too much sympathy or quickly placing total blame. It would benefit us to know what true empathy is. That we, have the ability to understand and share the feelings of another without crucifying them or victimizing them. We don’t really have to better understand whether it’s nurture or nature, but taking someone from exactly where they are and go from there. Because it is okay to give second chances. They will either turn their life around like Michael Vick or unfortunately, having an ending to their story like O.J. Simpson.
So it doesn’t matter whether a person’s development is predisposed by his DNA, or a majority of it is influenced by their life experiences and environment. We know that both nature and nurture play important roles in human development, and you can put too much emphasis or too little. (source) This can be seen when we take a look at fraternal twins. When fraternal twins are reared apart, they can show the same similarities in behavior and response as if they have been reared together, but that too is not always the case. (Source) So then let’s just take a minute a look at our own lives, and how explain or examine our own behaviors. Papa was a rolling stone, so of course I am (nature)… or in my family, I was surrounded by drugs, so I can’t help it (nurture). Your behaviors may be explained in both ways, but what will you let determine your life. Your Nature, or your nurture, or the sheer force of your will or better yet, if you are a believer, God’s will? You decide.