- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Psychologists have long debated the root causes of our behaviors. There are some who say that our actions are primarily the result of the genes we have inherited from our parents, while others contend that they are mostly the result of our environment and the way we are raised.
This is often stated as Nature vs. Nurture.
And though I am not a psychologist (though I am married to one and have previously stayed at a Holiday Inn), I believe I have some insight into the cause at least a few of our actions.
It is my contention that some behaviors are exclusively the result of Nature – which is to say that certain genes are passed on from moms and dads to kids so that they are apparently helpless to control their actions.
For example, my wife and I will soon celebrate 15 years of being happily married (and out of 19, that’s not bad). In all those years of living with her, and in the more than 10 years that we have shared our home with at least one child, I have found that I am the only one in our family that is capable of emptying a cereal box.
It’s true. As I have witnessed first-hand on many occasions, a cereal box at our house can go from full to nearly empty without me intervening. However, unless I finish it, the last half bowl stays in the box until it becomes stale and is thrown into the garbage.
I have been unable to determine any other cause of this phenomenon except that I have a “cereal crumb” gene, and my wife has a “no cereal crumb” gene.
Unfortunately, it appears that she has successfully passed her gene on to our children. The one hope I have is that the cereal crumb gene apparently lays dormant until the teenage years, and that in a few years my son will pick up the mantle of eating the cereal dust.
To bolster this theory, I recall that the same strange circumstances could be found in the home in which I grew up. Until my teenage years, my father was the only one in our house who had the ability to empty a cereal box.
This was particularly amazing because my dad only ate cereal on the weekend; Monday through Friday he was an eggs-and-bacon man. Still, until my own gene kicked in as a teen and he passed the baton to me, dad managed to empty every box of cereal in our house.
But finishing a cereal box isn’t the only behavior that this gene must enable. There is at least one other: turning off lights.
In our house, I never turn lights on – I only turn them off. This is because, at any given time, every single light in our house – including the one in the refrigerator – is on. Both my wife and my kids are obviously genetically-challenged when it comes to turning lights off. I know that it isn’t ‘Nurture’, because on numerous occasions I have taken them by the hand and walked them over to the wall to show them that the same switch that turns the light on also (surprise!) turns the light off.
They nod their heads (and roll their eyes) and seem to understand. Yet only moments later the same light is on – and remains so until I come along to turn it off. Again.
So what about it? Are there certain behaviors that are “hard-wired” into us? Or does the environment that surrounds us influence us more?
The Bible gives us some insight into the question. It says that ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, man has had a sinful nature.
This means that if left to our own devices, we would choose the wrong path more often than not (which no doubt explains why cereal boxes remain un-emptied and lights remain on all over the world).
The Biblical worldview regarding the nature of man also is consistent with what we actually experience. As opposed to the atheistic theory of evolution, which says that man is continually evolving and becoming more perfect, the Biblical view teaches that man – and the whole world – was created perfect, but because of the effects of sin, the world is becoming more and more imperfect. Which seems to line up with the observable facts: that the world (and man) started perfect and is becoming less so, or that things are getting better and better all the time?
The Bible teaches that God’s perfect Son came into this now sin-torn world to redeem it, so that by His grace and strength we can overcome our sinful nature.
And the miracle is that this grace is available to everyone, regardless of past behavior. The only prerequisite to receiving God’s grace is to acknowledge that we need it. Unfortunately, because of our pride, that is difficult for many to do.
My experience tells me that I need help – that there is something within me (and you) that makes it impossible for me to choose right as often as I’d like.
And I am still doing the research, but in addition to not finishing cereal boxes and leaving lights on, I have a strong suspicion that this same sinful nature also affects one’s ability to change the toilet paper roll.
Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. If you have questions or comments for Chuck, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.