When we look in the mirror, we see a reflection of ourselves. We ask many questions of existential significance. Questions like: Who am I? What was I made for?

However, there is one question that we seldom ask:

Where am I from?

As a human race, we are naturally forward-thinking. What is important and urgent lies in the present and very near future. Most of our energies are geared toward plans to succeed and we move toward achieving them. Therefore, past circumstances weigh very little on the scales of our everyday conscience. They are over and done with. We’ve moved on.

Where am I from? How has it shaped me as a person?

We tend to avoid such questions about our origin story, because when we retrace our life, we often find it littered with hurt, brokenness and delusion.

This is part of our shared condition of human suffering. We make mistakes and our lives are affected by the mistakes of others. So, we believe it’s better to just “not go there.”

But if we don’t “go there,” we inevitably allow ourselves to get stuck where we are. We become mired in self-doubt and start to believe that we are “necessarily determined” by our past and by the characters of persons who raised and shaped us.

We blame people’s influence over us, especially our family and what we have inherited from them, even physically. We don’t want to take responsibility for our future. We let where we are from define and determine where we are going.

For example, today we’re witnessing a sharp decline in marriage, especially among children of divorce, who are avoiding marriage because not only was it painful, but also because they believe they are “not meant for marriage.” Without a good example to model, they’re convinced they’re destined to repeat the same mistakes.

Without a good example to model, they're convinced they're destined to repeat the same mistakes.

We mustn’t turn our influential history into a radical psychology as John Watson claimed that we are “products” of our immediate circumstances and relationships. Watson promoted behavioral determinism, putting human beings practically on par with animals and their inbred natural instincts. The result was the victimization of entire generations throughout the 20th century until today. That may be why many of us continue to shrug off our personal defects as “just being brought up that way” or because we have been “hard-wired to do so genetically.” Doubtless, there is some truth to this, it is hardly the whole truth.

Can’t we just face the fact that, in solidarity, we are all passengers aboard the same human boat awash in violence, abuse, in-fighting and betrayal?

We must all accept and promote the truth that our family history is part of our story, but it does not make our story.

We can and must reconcile with and then move on from old influence, even at the deepest family and biological levels, through practice of certain virtues such as prudence, temperance, practical wisdom and foresight that empower us for better dispositions to self-determination.

We must anchor our drive to “break the pattern of influence” by way of an unwavering belief in and commitment to personal liberty and accountability. If we are not free, then what are we? If not, we cannot speak of choices, of preferences, of decisions, not even of errors or successes. All of this depends on human freedom to act one way or another.

We don’t have the power to choose our families. But we do have the power to choose how to act. And that should propel us forward to a brighter, better destiny that defies the odds and destroys our low expectations.

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