Jack Freed had a post in his Jack’s Winning Words blog recently, which featured the quote – “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” (John Bradford)
Jack went on to write about what separates those who commit heinous crimes, such as we have recently witnessed on many fronts; from those who restrain themselves and don’t do the wrong things. In his post, Jack posed the question of whether it is nature or nurture.
I’ve always been fascinated by the surprise and consternation expressed when someone in what we think of as a “trusted” position, such as a policeman or doctor or leader (business or political) violates that trust to their own advantage. It’s as if we somehow suspend disbelief in human nature for those people until they prove that they don’t deserve our trust. That is probably a cynical view of the world, since it presupposes that those whom we trust don’t, in fact, deserve that trust.
A less cynical view of the world, which places unreserved trust in those in positions of power and authority, which might be called naïve; but, it is a more pleasant place to live in than the world of the cynic. In that world, everyone is assumed to have had the nurturing and teaching of the difference between right and wrong and to have embraced right over wrong in their lives. For Christians, that nurturing and teaching is based upon the lessons of Jesus in the Bible.
Perhaps it is modern society’s lack of embrace of religion that is at the root of many of the heinous acts that we see happening in the world today. Children who spend Sunday mornings playing sports, instead of attending Sunday School, are not exposed to the teachings of the Bible that might ground them properly in an understanding of right and wrong. Instead of the nurture of faith they are exposed to the nature of competition and, in some cases, a winner takes all attitude about sports and life. In too many cases, they are exposed to adults in coaching positions of authority who demonstrate to them some of the worst human traits of anger and selfishness. All too many of those youth coaches teach a win-at-all-costs outlook on life.
Is it any wonder, then, that we hear so many stories of college and professional athletes being caught up in bad behavior. They were on the athletic field on Sunday morning and not in church or Sunday School. They did not get the nurture of a religion-based understanding of right and wrong; they only get the human nature lesson of win or lose from their coaches and in some cases, a sense of entitlement grew out of their athletic successes.
Certainly, not all coaches are too obsessed with winning to try to teach their young charges some values for life. There are valuable life lessons that can come out of competing in sports and most good coaches will tell you that. However, most of those lessons need to be positioned within a moral context that might be lacking because of a lack of any religious nurturing. Few coaches have the time or take the time to worry about that aspect of their athletes lives.
What will rule your life and the lives of your children – nurture or nature? Every sports parent thinks that they are doing the right thing to support their child in youth athletics. But, is it more important for your child (who is statically unlikely to grow up to be a professional athlete) to be out on the athletic field on Sunday morning or in church and Sunday School; where he/she might receive the nurturing exposure to religion and the concepts of right and wrong? They look to you for that leadership. What will you choose for them?
Nature or nurture, which will rule your life and theirs?