NATURE VS. NURTURE – DOES HARDSHIP MAKE YOU STRONGER? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #20

Kelly Clarkson song leverages something originally attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” That quote is attributed to the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Anyway, the song got Fandango thinking about the validity of Nietzsche’s notion, so here is this week’s provocative question:

I have always hated being told: “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The people who spout it are usually people who have never experienced anything harder than a long walk with a foot blister. I particularly resent people who add “God” to the expression because if there’s one thing that could give me a strong anti-God point of view, the idea that he does this sort of thing as a kind of  “video game with us as the playing figures” is disgusting.

Does hardship make you stronger? Tougher? Or merely meaner? Does it make you more able to deal with the rough parts of your journey from birth to burial — or does it just turn you mean, angry, and depressive?

Depending on the person, his DNA, and natural “state,” perhaps it does all of the above in varying degrees. Certainly coddling children and making sure they never have to cope with the bumps and dings of “real” life won’t make them stronger.

I think it’s healthy to allow children to deal with reality as they mature because sooner or later, you won’t be there to fend off “the bad stuff.” So letting kids handle at least some of the difficult aspects of life helps them grow up and more importantly, helps them understand what it means to not be protected from everything. It’s always difficult to know when to let it go, let a child stand up for him or herself — or to take a hand in the matter. I suspect one ought to at least consult the kid about it. Some of them have strong feelings on the subject.

But that’s talking about intelligent, involved parents who are not desperately poor, lurking on the edge (or middle) of criminality, abuse, or worse.

So let’s roll this back a bit:
“Do abused children grow stronger?”

My answer? Sometimes, but let’s not count on it. Many abused kids grow up to be abusive parents and criminals. Others become psychiatrists, physicians, lawyers, police officers, or other caretakers. Or writers, artists, and teachers.

We make choices. We live by the choices we make.

The argument over “nature vs. nurture” in child development has been going on as long as I’ve been alive and has probably been going on since anyone had a family and could argue about it.

I used to be all about nurture, but watching children grow — the three in my terribly dysfunctional family, my son in mine, and his daughter in his … I’m inclining more towards a 60-40 nature-nurture split. Before Owen was a week old, he could push himself up on his arms and look around the room. I remember the doctor saying “Oh, this one is going to run you ragged!”

He didn’t run me ragged. He ran himself ragged. These days, kids with that kind of energy are instantly put on drugs because teachers want placid students. They don’t want energetic boys who need activity, not all day stuck behind a desk.

Does being DRUGGED from first grade make you stronger? I think it turns you into a druggie always looking for a better pill to solve your problems. Not to diminish the role Big Pharma has in the current mess, parents who allow themselves to be bullied into drugging their kids from first grade on shouldn’t be surprised if their kid grows up still looking for the right drug to fix everything.

There’s more than one person at whom we can point our fingers.

2010

I grew up in a family of three children with a child-molesting, abusive father — and a mother who simply could not believe things were as bad as they seemed. My brother built a life, but I don’t think he ever stopped being angry. His childhood had been torn away and the pain never left. But he managed to have a marriage that lasted from when he was 20 until he died.

My sister got mired in drugs and vanished into a world of chaos and I don’t even know what else. I haven’t seen her for years and no longer know if she is alive. I’m assuming if she had died, someone would have called me. The last time she was hospitalized, they found me, so I’m sure they’ll find me again if they need to.

2012

And then there’s me. I was probably the tough one. After growing up with my father, I was never afraid of anyone. I was probably just a little bit hostile in my earlier years, mellowing out somewhat as time has marched on. There are still a lot of areas regarding men and especially ANGRY men that push all of my buttons at the same time and I have a temper that I’ve spent a lifetime holding in check.

I worked hard and I don’t think anyone ever referred to me as “easy-going.” Did childhood make me tough? Or would I have been tough anyway?

I was always determined to do my own thing. Unlike many of my peers, parental pressure — really, any kind of bullying — has had little effect on me. On the other hand, coaxing, suggestions, and a fine editor have done wonders. I listen when people have good ideas. I’m always ready to try things a new way.

I think I was born this way.

I think if my mother had tried coddling me I’d have been out the door and miles away before she could call me home. I was also extremely responsible at a very early age. I recognized danger, didn’t do things that would get me killed or hurt anyone. I could (did) babysit for my sister when I was six and no one thought that odd because my brother was older, but I was more responsible.

So this is one of those “maybe yes and maybe not” answers. Nature — DNA and the way our particular helix is designed has more to do with how we turn out than parenting. But other things — manners, taste, and interests — come from our environment. Kids brought up with books read books. Kids whose mothers drag them to art museums learn to love art.

Energy, determination, will-power, and talent are gifts. What we do with them are 50-50 culture and DNA.

Now, let the arguments begin!

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

35 thoughts on “NATURE VS. NURTURE – DOES HARDSHIP MAKE YOU STRONGER? – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. OK, nothing about nature vs nurture, about if we should drug over active kids (I agree with 100%) or about your past and how the three siblings reacted different, I just want to comment about that Cyclone photo of you and Garry! That has to be one of the best roller coaster photos I’ve seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Garry and I LOVED the Cyclone. I still do, but my old bones have taken a strong stand on the matter. But oh how I loved to ride the big coasters from when I was maybe 8? My granddaughter was the same way. She didn’t want to ride any other ride in the park. JUST the cyclone. She was 9, tiny AND she had a broken arm in a cast. That’s when I learned how to ride the Cyclone ONE handed while keeping my granddaughter from flying into space with the other hand. And she laughed through all 7 rides, at which point grannie said: “Sweetheart, I think that’s it for me!” I needed a gurney by then. She was STILL laughing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I grew up 20 miles from Cedar Point in Ohio. Their motto is “The Roller Coast” (some people call the great lakes “the north coast”.) I always loved the big coasters, and still do when I visit. 7 rides one-armed – I’m sure you did need a gurney!

        Like

  2. I agree . The express about makes me stronger makes me want to gag and throw up.
    I grew up in Southern Appalachia. I saw a lot of property and abuse. And a lot of people suffered and never recovered beause if it. Some if tge toughest people I ever met grew up with money.

    Gen I was in college in the early sixties studying psychology were we’re discussing nature vs. nurture. It is still being discussed with no answer. I have read a lot of studies eith identical twins. Now studies with people from different geographical areas with certain dna concentration are trifling some results. I doubt if we will ever get the total answer but we seem to be moving closer.

    Until I read about the woke people from the extreme left and then it gets really depressing.

    Like

    1. Right now, I’m leaning towards something around a 50-50 answer, but I don’t think anyone will EVER agree on this one. It has been argued forever by everyone. You just look at any family with multiple kids and realize that aside from a physical resemblance, they have not other resemblances — you can’t help but think the DNA had a big hand in the matter!

      Like

  3. We had two kids (now grown), 2 1/2 years apart, and they couldn’t be more different. We also got two dogs from the same litter, and like our kids, they were so different. So I think nurture is important, but based upon our kids and dogs, I lean toward nature as the driving factor.

    Like

    1. That’s kind of the same point I reached. Just in my own family, me in the middle, with a younger sister and older brother, mostly what we had in common was being siblings. After that? Not much.

      Like

  4. Poor Nietzsche. I think the statement is true, even if you hate it. if you survive something, you know something about yourself you didn’t know before — that you can survive that thing and that’s strength. But I agree with your conclusion; it’s an individual thing if survival muscles are developed through adversity. I’ve written about this and found the post in my spring cleaning. It speaks for me, but no one else.

    https://marthakennedy.blog/2015/04/30/tyger/

    Like

    1. Some of us ARE tougher than others. And since we are all an infinite combination of genes and upbringing, exactly what anything will bring up is iffy. I tend to prefer people who are a bit tough and don’t melt at the first sign of a problem. They also make AWFUL traveling companions!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. That’s how I knew Garry and I would make it. We traveled really well together. We were both of the “Screw the problems. We’re on VACATION” kind of travelers. We just didn’t want to hassle over anything. We just wanted to spend every cent we had, eat great meals, and not miss the return flight. And spend the next two year trying to recoup all the money we spent. We had a blast everywhere we went.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Just looking at one aspect….I wonder how Nietzsche would have fared asking that question to the ones who survived the battles of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?

    Like

      1. Michael Herr’s ‘Dispatches’ contains some very impressive commentaries, which although relate to experiences in Vietnam in 1968-69 can translate very easily into other situations.

        Like

  6. I agree about the 60-40 based on the dynamics in my dysfunctional birth family (I’m the responsible one too – though not always so responsible 😏) and in watching my three children grow up. Environment is very, very important but there are things that are innate personality characteristics that just can’t be nurtured out.

    Like

    1. Environment matters. If you come from a middle-class or wealthy family, you’re going to get choices a poorer kid might not even dream of. You can’t dismiss the effect of money and power — but you also can’t dismiss inherent personality and talent and abilities.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. LOVE the rollercoaster photo! I too love a coaster, preferably in front. Nature/nuture. I do come down on the some of each place. Some stress builds strength, but too much leads to permanent damage, ask any athlete. Same is true of the spirit and mind, in my experience (doc and trauma therapist, as well as a few (63) years living and opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s both, too. It has to be. Kids are born with personalities that are lifelong. Tastes and preferences change though. I think we need to recognize the difference between personality and preference or taste. They aren’t the same thing.

      Like

  8. It’s an impossible question to answer, isn’t it? Look at kids who are put into foster care? Assuming that they get great foster parents some do really well, others still end up following the same path their parents took. I think I’d tend a little bit towards nature but everyone is different. As for “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’d like to say that to any group of politicians while making them live the way an unemployed, homeless or starving person has to live.

    Like

  9. Always an interesting discussion. I think what doesn’t kill you just makes you weaker. Maybe some can can strength from constantly having to face battles head on, but others just succumb. As an educator of 1st, 2nd and now 3rd grade children, I agree that immediately medicating is not an answer, but I have witnessed first hand a child who could not focus on what was being taught, could not pay attention, was constantly restless and disruptive to the class, once on medication be able to accomplish and succeed in the classroom. Not become a zombie by being overmedicated, but whatever it was they were being given allowed their brain to concentrate and not face a bombardment of overstimuli which would lead to lack of focus and concentration. Today’s classrooms are not those of 10 or 20 or 50 years ago when I grew up- our kids move around, participate in activities using manipulatives, are involved in team work. No one is sitting all day at a desk listening to someone drone on from the front of the classroom. Recess is outdoors unless the temp drops below 33 degrees, and even indoors they are running and going. If the class does seem tired we do a Go Noodle- https://youtu.be/BQ9q4U2P3ig, it’s dancing for school kids and they all take a 3 minute break and do it. Smartboards are interactive, we use ipads and macbooks in the classroom, we skype with classes in other states to discuss books we are reading. Just my feeling about what goes on in the classroom and the use of medication.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I admit, I haven’t seen a newer classroom in a long time. Our local schools are just like they were when I was a kid. My granddaughter’s classes were just like mine. I think you will find that those modern, up-to-date schools are local, depending on the wealth of the community. This is a pretty poor area, so we don’t have all the “extras” and our schools are very basic.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think those random quotes were mostly my own. I sometimes use phrases in bigger letters and in color (with or without a photographic background) to keep a piece from looking dull. Colored text breaks up the all that black and white 😀

      Like

Leave a Reply to OG Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.