The Reactionary Difference

My aunt attended an eating disorders anonymous meeting to gain information for a research project. As each person went around the circle to share their experiences with eating disorders, they all had one common theme, their disorders were a result of something somebody did to them. Whether they ate too much or too little, there was one thing for sure, it was not their fault, they were merely reacting to their environment. They were spot on, they were all products of their upbringing, from their parents, to their friends, to the town they lived in, it all mattered.

Environment and outside influences create who we become. A perfect storm of historical events, economic depression, and xenophobia created one of the worst human beings the world had ever seen. The toxic environment he was raised in and consequently perpetuated, created for an entire class of followers hell bent on eradicating an entire race. They were all products of their environment.

Coincidentally, at the same exact time in history, under the almost identical circumstances, some of the worlds most courageous, moral, and selfless individuals were raised up, also a product of their environments. We are all products of something. Every decision we make was for a specific reason, but in reality, those reasons don’t matter. We hear from parents who say “I know my child did something wrong, but let me explain the reasons or the factors which caused them to react one way or the other.” Sometimes as parents we would like to know these factors so we can eliminate them or change something. Sometimes as teachers, it is important to know them as well. However, the only discussion with the child should be how they reacted to the situation or their environment.

We usually have very little to no control over certain situations or other peoples actions, the only thing we can control is our reaction, in the end, the reasons don’t matter. It is the only reason that two completely different people can arise out of identical circumstances, one chooses to use the circumstances to mold and shape their character, while the other uses the circumstances to excuse their lack of character. The most important thing we can teach our scholars and our children is to resist the urge to look for those circumstances to assign fault to, and simply accept our own reactions and the positive or negative consequences that follow, in short, the reasons don’t matter, the reaction does.