I have a cousin who grew up down the street from me. He was the oldest of six kids. Six kids who had the same parents, grew up in the same house, and went to the same school. He was very different from his five siblings and sixty-two years later remains very different from the rest of his family.
I am a big believer in the theory that your environment ultimately molds your personality. If you grow-up in a racist family there is a strong probability that you too will have racist views, and sadly, so will your children. But my cousin has always given me hope that some people break the environmental mold and can chart their on course.
My cousin is a world renown scientist, a rock star in his chosen field among his peers. Of the six kids, he is the only one that went to college. The other five have simply rolled through life, some with moderate success, others with little to no success. Honestly, their parents didn’t really encourage them or expect much out of them. They were too busy having fun, living the life they wanted rather than the life their kids needed them to live. They created an environment of personal gratification, take care of yourself, have fun and spare no expense, you only live once. A couple of their children took this philosophy to heart and have battled drug and alcohol problems their entire life. All of the children have had multiple marriages. For me, it has been an up close and personal view of how our personality is a reflection of our environment.
Certainly there are stories of individuals who have risen above their “raisings” as my Grandmother called it. My cousin is certainly one example. But I would suspect the vast majority of us hold the same values and thoughts or at least a more “modern” version of them that our parents did. It is the earliest imprint we are given and certainly the most powerful one, part nature and part nurture.
I mentioned racism above and that, for me, is one of the most troubling environmental traits still being passed down today. In the south most simply think of racism as a white and black phenomenon. But honestly, racism is much bigger than that. It is a small word that has a much bigger context. If someone is discriminatory to individuals of a specific race there is also a strong probability they are also discriminatory to not only race, but also age, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. It is simple math, the attitude is already prevalent, why be discriminatory with your discrimination? If you hate blacks it is just as easy to hate gays. If you hate gays it is real easy to add Muslims to the list. The cycle is vicious, but not impossible for some to remove themselves from.
You don’t have to be a parent of children to affect the environment of people. How you treat yourself and others is on display to everyone. Your actions speak volumes. Do you treat everyone the same no matter their race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion? Do you tell racist jokes around your buddies? Do you call people faggots, niggers, towel heads behind their backs? Do you think everyone that doesn’t accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour is headed to hell? What do your actions, what does your environment say about you? Are they values that need to be passed down or changed?