I've often wondered which one wins out (though I do have my opinion). And just how much of it is our own conscious choice? I've heard people (and others for them) make excuses for bad behavior. 'It's not their fault. They were treated badly.' or 'They drink because their parents did. They can't help it.'
I've seen people come from horrible backgrounds and I've seen people come from good backgrounds.
Some of the people from not so great homes still manage to be decent people and some from loving and supportive homes, I've seen treat everyone like trash. I have sadly had plenty of experience dealing with the latter.
I still don't understand how a man who came from a supportive and mostly loving family could turn into the type of person who treats others like they are disposable. I will probably never understand it.
I know some things can be predisposed but I also think that we have a conscious choice in certain things.
For example, coming from a bad background or having been abused, does not mean you have to do the same. You can break they cycle. As someone who has been through it, I can say this for sure. As an example, I'll share something that happened to me years ago now. I still remember it and it's not likely I will forget.
Right after I had my daughter, a social worker came to see me before I was allowed to leave the hospital.
Keep in mind, I had and still have no record of being abusive or violent the conversation went something like this:
'I'm (insert name here) I'm here to see how you're doing, make sure everything is okay. And talk to you a little bit.'
'Okay... I'm not sure exactly what's going on but sure.'
She then asked my husband to clear out of the room and instructed him which room to go to wait. As I later found out there was another worker waiting to talk to him about whether I was mentally and emotionally 'stable enough' to raise a child and if he had any concerns or thought our daughter might be in danger.
She asked me a few basic questions to begin and I admit, having just given birth maybe 12 hours prior I was in pain and had gotten no sleep due to a noisy roommate so I tried to move things along while still trying to be polite.
'I have to ask, did I do something wrong?'
Her looking surprised. 'Not at all. It's standard procedure.'
'So you do this with everyone who has a baby?'
Her looking uncomfortable. 'No... But we do when the parent has a history of being abused.'
'The truth is you're a high risk for being abusive to your daughter.'
'Why?' (Don't judge me too harshly for not putting 2 and 2 together right away I was going on over 24 hours of no sleep by that point)
'When someone is abused, they are more likely to continue the cycle and do it to their own children.'
'I'm sorry but that's stupid.'
'Abuse like that can have a major affect on a person.'
'I'm not saying it doesn't. I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me. But that's the point. I remember what it felt like. I remember feeling lost, alone and scared. I remember what it was like having nobody to turn to. Why on earth would I ever want to put my child through that? I'm going to use what I went through to make sure my daughter never feels that way.'
Her looking stunned. 'That's an excellent way of looking at things. I think it's safe to say after talking to you that I have no further concerns about your emotional state in caring for your daughter.'
I think that's one of the biggest things right there for me. I have a sore spot especially for people who abuse children because 'It was done to them.' or 'They don't know any other way.' Maybe that's true but if you really remember what it felt like, why would you do it to someone else? It won't erase your pain or even lessen it.
If you know a certain behavior will hurt a child, why do it? Why not take 2 seconds to remember what it felt like when it was done to you and think of another way?
I know not everyone will agree with me and that's ok but I strongly believe we have more control than we admit. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control what we take from it and how we use it. No matter what has been done to us, we control what we do to others.