Her question was in response to a scripture I included in one of my previous posts: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV) I’m paraphrasing here, but she asked, “What’s your take on people who seemingly show that particular scripture to be inaccurate, people whose behavior and personality deviate from their training (the way they were raised)?” A few more text messages between us revealed that she was also pondering the old Nature-VS-Nurture debate, so I will provide two responses to her inquiries.
Her first question, about people whose behavior and personality deviate from their training: When raising a child, while you want to instill morals and build good character, you also want to allow your child to be an individual, not just a clone of yourself. You want them to make their own decisions. I believe that every person is trained in two different ways, under two diametrically opposed belief systems. We’ll call it “Primary Training” and “Secondary Training.” Primary Training happens at home, it starts at birth, and is usually guided by one’s parents. Secondary Training happens outside the home, it begins the moment you encounter something that you recognize as being contrary to what you’re taught at home, and it’s guided by the people you interact with, and the experiences you have, outside of the home. To answer my niece’s question, I believe a person deviates from their primary training when they make the determination that some piece of contrary information they’ve encountered (in the world) is derived from a greater truth, or is of greater importance, than what they were initially taught during primary training.
I do feel it necessary to point out that the “training” mentioned in Proverbs 22:6 is referring to training a child in accord with God’s instruction, instilling a desire to be more Christ-like, that she may be discerning in matters of the spirit. There can be no greater truth than the God who created us and the God we will return to when this journey of the flesh is concluded. If this is understood and accepted early in life then there is no chance that she will allow herself to be persuaded that anything is greater, or more important, than her creator.
(2) Her second inquiry, the Nature-VS-Nurture question: I don’t want to oversimplify it, because in some circles it’s still an unsettled debate, however, the scripture in question, Proverbs 22:6, seems to provide an unambiguous answer. It states that if you “train up a child” in a certain way then later in life “he will not depart from it.” Scripture seems to indicate that the way one is nurtured (trained or raised) is greater than one’s nature, since our nurturing has the power to overcome our nature.
There are many verses in the Holy Bible that describe our nature as “sinful.” Romans 7:18 (NIV) is one of those verses, and it states, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” When we look at both scriptures, one addressing being nurtured according God’s word, the other addressing our “sinful nature,” we see that the nature-vs-nurture debate isn’t an argument created by modern minds, it’s a war that has been waged inside the soul of every person since the beginning of humanity. The solution is simple: “Train up a child” in the way she should go so she can overcome that “sinful nature.”
In a way, I can hold up my own life as a testament to the truth and validity of Proverbs 22:6. As a kid I learned about God and Jesus Christ. My mother taught me the “Our Father” prayer at a very young age. I consider it one of the most important things I’ve ever learned. I still praise God. I still pray daily. I still go to church, now more than ever. Even 9 years in prison wasn’t enough to change what I know of God’s word. I “will not depart from it.”
*Talisa, I hope you find this response satisfactory. I love you and God bless you.