Strength & Weakness: Nature

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.

Show Me

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.

Strength & Weakness: Hers

Strength & Weakness: His

Strength & Weakness: His vs. Hers

Strength & Weakness: Theirs

Name an example of natural strength or name another exception.

© Red Dwyer 2011
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  1. Amazing series, I’m playing catch-up with the past posts on this topic. Will weigh in with my cogent (or completely disorganized) thoughts, later. Thank you! I’m already drawn in!
    My father was a psychiatrist, my daughter is currently studying at SFSU (with designs on her PhD in Psych or medical school with a specialty in psychiatry). Was ready to begin medical school myself at the ripe age of 42 (to become a psychiatrist). My father talked me out of it. Another story.
    Hell, I’ve been in therapy, analysis, and you name it since age 14.
    and you know what they say about people who go into this field or find it worthy of such intensive study -grin-.

    The entire psychological and physiological nature vs nurture (Go Piaget lol) and questions of strength and weakness is amazing.

    The points you have made; ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, exceptions of the psychologically damaged -sociopaths-, and research into instinct are wonderful. The ‘Show Me’ section can be seen every year at Burning Man, where a community of thousands will care for one citizen in need -even if not related by any chromosomes. For the ‘good of all’ really does reign, I’ve seen it work. With the exact exceptions that you have mentioned.

    Look forward to finishing your entire series.

    • Glad to have you weigh in, Rachael. It always will reign. It is our nature. Sometimes, the hard part for people to understand when this discussion comes ’round is the fact we are still mammals. Looking at the nature of the issue is as simple as looking into the animal characteristics. You may well like the “Nurture” portion. Feel free to sound off on the older installments as well. Red.

  2. I’m sure people thought/think Jesus was weak as well because He was humble, self-sacrificing, etc. Sometimes what looks like weakness is really strength and visa versa. Just a thought that came up lol. Trying to play catch up myself:)

    • There is no weakness in humility and self-sacrifice. But you are just a bit ahead. Tomorrow’s post will address what your comment brings up…Impatient *shakes head* {HUGZ} Red.

  3. I’ve said this before, but I’m enjoying this series and the conversation it stirs.

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