We all try to avoid the unpleasantness of life – the dark times if you will. However, it is those dark times that shape us. Psychologists have spent a lot of time evaluating whether nature (genetics) or nurture (environment) has the greatest influence on human development.
The genetic influence regards our genes – what we inherit from our parents… things such as eye color, hair color, allergies, height, and even to some extent, our intelligence. In contrast, environmental influences that determine our development include the way we were raised, was it supporting or condemning, our relationship with others, the type of home we were raised in, nutrition, and the quality of education and healthcare we received.
Much of the psychological research confirms that human development is the result of a combination of nature and nurture. While both nature and nurture provide significant impacts on human development, one of the most influential factors in determining the person we will become occurs during the dark times. These dark times occur when things simply aren’t going our way. These can range from having a bad day to suffering severe trauma or tragedy. When we encounter these challenges, how we respond to them shapes our character. We can allow these dark times to create a bitter, frightened, or angry character or we can choose to look outside of our situation and evaluate what we might learn from the situation. Some questions we can ask are:
- How did we get in this situation?
- How do we succeed in this situation? (Note, I did not ask how we escape the situation. We are in this situation for a reason, it is important to understand what it is we are to learn from the experience.)
- How do we prevent the situation from recurring?
- How do we help others that are going through similar situations?
It is not an easy task to step outside of your situation and examine it in this manner. However, it does get easier with practice. The good news is we all get many opportunities to exercise this skill as dark times are not unique to any of us — we all go through them. The next time you are going through a tough time, remember, it is only temporary, and the experience will help improve the person you will be.
What was a dark time that you went through that influenced your life?
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
– James 1:2-3
Encourage, Elevate, Empower