Our discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of men and women led to the question of how much of what we perceive as strength and weakness is a product of societal norms and what was genetically inherent to the sexes.
We are all human.
When polled, the audience (and my research subjects and the doctors who helped with this series) were quick to choose self-sacrifice in relationships as a strength. Ironically, that same self-sacrifice in terms of gender was considered a weakness. What is the difference? The difference answers the question of what nature brings to the table. First, let’s set some background.
In a Vacuum
None of us grows up in a vacuum. We are exposed to others, their actions, their inaction, their emotions and the consequences of all three. Genetically, we are wired to be inquisitive. Like every human characteristic, some pursue the curiosity with a verve while others are content to let the information come to them.
Instinct is difficult to circumvent. Instinct is not learned behavior. It is something which need not be taught because the mind will act in a situation without the consultation of the heart, without ego and without training.
A good example is to see an adolescent left with a newborn for the first time. Even without educational preparation, he will care for the infant at an instinctual level. He will remove his own clothing to keep the child warm. He will offer or obtain food for the child. This is a primal example of natural self-sacrifice: Natural strength.
This example is not about male and female. It is about being human. The innate capability of compassion, perseverance and/or empathy is one of the distinctions (and strengths) we use to define our species. It transcends gender. Yet, that said, it is not equally applied. Just because all humans are upright does not mean we are all the same height.
There will always be the exception to the rule. Sociopaths are the first group which come to mind. This particular pathology precludes the instincts to act as social animals, which humans are. By design, we seek out others and try to connect through our emotions, intellect and chemical attraction. We try to become part of a larger humanity than we offer of our own accord.
What about nurture?
Nurture is where the difference lies between self-sacrifice as a weakness rather than a natural strength. Enter social experience. Tomorrow, we shall discuss the way social interaction changes what we consider a strength into a weakness.
If you have missed the beginning of this series, visit the following links to catch up. The comments are important to understanding how we got to this post.
Name an example of natural strength or name another exception.
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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