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Mind, Character and Personality, volume 1

Chapter 17

Heredity and Environment

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The Power of Heredity.-Consider the power of heredity, the influence of evil associations and surroundings, the power of wrong habits. Can we wonder that under such influences many become degraded? Can we wonder that they should be slow to respond to efforts for their uplifting?-The Ministry of Healing, 168 (1905).

Children Often Inherit Disposition.-As a rule, children inherit the dispositions and tendencies of their parents and imitate their example so that the sins of the parents are practiced by the children from generation to generation. Thus the vileness and irreverence of Ham were reproduced in his posterity, bringing a curse upon them for many generations....

On the other hand, how richly rewarded was Shem's respect for his father; and what an illustrious line of holy men appears in his posterity!-Patriarchs and Prophets, 118 (1890).

Mothers Should Inform Themselves on Laws of Heredity.-In past generations, if mothers had informed themselves in regard to the laws of their being, they would have understood that their constitutional strength, as well as the tone of their morals and their mental faculties, would in a great measure be represented in their offspring. Their ignorance upon this subject, where so much is involved, is criminal.-Healthful Living, 37, 1865 (Part 2) . (Selected Messages 2:431.)

Disease Transmitted From Parents to Children.-Through the successive generations since the Fall, the tendency has been continually downward. Disease has been transmitted from parents to children, generation after generation. Even infants in the cradle suffer from afflictions caused by the sins of the parents.

Moses, the first historian, gives quite a definite account of social and individual life in the early days of the world's history, but we find no record that an infant was born blind, deaf, crippled, or imbecile. Not an instance is recorded of a natural death in infancy, childhood, or early manhood.... It was so rare for a son to die before his father that such an occurrence was considered worthy of record: "Haran died before his father Terah." The patriarchs from Adam to Noah, with few exceptions, lived nearly a thousand years. Since then the average length of life has been decreasing.

At the time of Christ's first advent the race had already so degenerated that not only the old but the middle-aged and the young were brought from every city to the Saviour to be healed of their diseases.-Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 7, 8, 1890. (Counsels on Diet and Foods, 117, 118.)

Children to Avoid Wrong Habits of Parents.-Disease never comes without a cause. The way is prepared and disease invited by disregard of the laws of health. Many suffer in consequence of the transgression of their parents. While they are not responsible for what their parents have done, it is nevertheless their duty to ascertain what are and what are not violations of the laws of health. They should avoid the wrong habits of their parents and by correct living place themselves in better conditions.-The Ministry of Healing, 234 (1905).

Ancestors' Sins Filling World With Disease.-Our ancestors have bequeathed to us customs and appetites which are filling the world with disease. The sins of the parents, through perverted appetite, are with fearful power visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations. The bad eating of many generations, the gluttonous and self-indulgent habits of the people, are filling our poorhouses, our prisons, and our insane asylums. Intemperance in drinking tea and coffee, wine, beer, rum, and brandy and in using tobacco, opium, and other narcotics has resulted in great mental and physical degeneracy, and this degeneracy is constantly increasing.-The Review and Herald, July 29, 1884. (Counsels on Health, 49.)

Inherited Appetite for Stimulants.-For some persons it is by no means safe to have wine or cider in the house. They have inherited an appetite for stimulants which Satan is continually soliciting them to indulge. If they yield to his temptations, they do not stop; appetite clamors for indulgence and is gratified to their ruin. The brain is benumbed and clouded; reason no longer holds the reins, but they are laid on the neck of lust.-Testimonies for the Church 5:356, 357 (1885).

Evils of Tobacco Passed to Children.-Among children and youth the use of tobacco is working untold harm. The unhealthful practices of past generations affect the children and youth of today. Mental inability, physical weakness, disordered nerves, and unnatural cravings are transmitted as a legacy from parents to children. And the same practices, continued by the children, are increasing and perpetuating the evil results. To this cause in no small degree is owing the physical, mental, and moral deterioration which is becoming such a cause of alarm.-The Ministry of Healing, 328, 329 (1905).

Children Inherit Inclinations.-Children inherit inclinations to wrong, but they also have many lovely traits of character. These should be strengthened and developed, while the tendencies to evil should be carefully guarded against and repressed. Children should never be flattered, for flattery is poison to them; but parents should show a sanctified, tender regard for them, thus gaining their confidence and love.-The Review and Herald, January 24, 1907.

Proper Words of Commendation.-Whenever the mother can speak a word of commendation for the good conduct of her children, she should do so. She should encourage them by words of approval and looks of love. These will be as sunshine to the heart of a child and will lead to the cultivation of self-respect and pride of character.-Testimonies for the Church 3:532 (1889).

Quick Tempers Sometimes Inherited.-Some have had a quick temper transmitted to them, and their education in childhood has not taught them self-control. With this fiery temper, envy and jealousy are frequently united.-Testimonies for the Church 2:74 (1868).

Satan Takes Advantage of Inherited Weakness.-In our own strength it is impossible for us to deny the clamors of our fallen nature. Through this channel Satan will bring temptation upon us. Christ knew that the enemy would come to every human being to take advantage of hereditary weakness and by his false insinuations to ensnare all whose trust is not in God. And by passing over the ground which man must travel, our Lord has prepared the way for us to overcome. It is not His will that we should be placed at a disadvantage in the conflict with Satan.... "Be of good cheer," He says; "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).-The Desire of Ages, 122, 123 (1898).

Conversion Changes Inherited Tendencies.-A genuine conversion changes hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong. The religion of God is a firm fabric, composed of innumerable threads and woven together with tact and skill. Only the wisdom which comes from God can make this fabric complete. There are a great many kinds of cloth which at first have a fine appearance, but they cannot endure the test. They wash out. The colors are not fast. Under the heat of summer they fade away and are lost. The cloth cannot endure rough handling.-Lt 105, 1893. (The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 6:1101.)

Not to Be Enslaved by Inheritance.-The question for us to consider is, Have we the attributes of Christ? Excuses are valueless. All circumstances, all appetites and passions, are to be servants to the God-fearing man, not rulers over him. The Christian is not to be enslaved by any hereditary or cultivated habits or tendency.-SpT Series A, No. 9, p 56, 1897. (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 421.)

Angels Help Fight These Tendencies.-Angels are ever present where they are most needed. They are with those who have the hardest battles to fight, with those who must battle against inclination and hereditary tendencies, whose home surroundings are the most discouraging.-The Review and Herald, April 16, 1895. (My Life Today, 303.)

Faith Purifies Inherited Imperfections.-Those who through an intelligent understanding of the Scriptures view the cross aright, those who truly believe in Jesus, have a sure foundation for their faith. They have that faith which works by love and purifies the soul from all its hereditary and cultivated imperfections.-Testimonies for the Church 6:238 (1900).

Far-reaching Effects of Environment.-We are living in an atmosphere of satanic witchery. The enemy will weave a spell of licentiousness around every soul that is not barricaded by the grace of Christ. Temptations will come; but if we watch against the enemy and maintain the balance of self-control and purity, the seducing spirits will have no influence over us. Those who do nothing to encourage temptation will have strength to withstand it when it comes, but those who keep themselves in an atmosphere of evil will have only themselves to blame if they are overcome and fall from their steadfastness. In the future, good reasons will be seen for the warnings given regarding seducing spirits. Then will be seen the force of Christ's words, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).-Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 257 (1913).

Lot's Daughters Ruined by Evil Environment.-Lot dwelt but a short time in Zoar. Iniquity prevailed there as in Sodom, and he feared to remain, lest the city should be destroyed. Not long after, Zoar was consumed, as God had purposed. Lot made his way to the mountains and abode in a cave, stripped of all for which he had dared to subject his family to the influences of a wicked city. But the curse of Sodom followed him even here. The sinful conduct of his daughters was the result of the evil associations of that vile place. Its moral corruption had become so interwoven with their character that they could not distinguish between good and evil. Lot's only posterity, the Moabites and Ammonites, were vile, idolatrous tribes, rebels against God and bitter enemies of His people.-Patriarchs and Prophets, 167, 168 (1890).

Shun Evil Associations.-Few realize the importance of shunning, so far as possible, all associations unfriendly to religious life. In choosing their surroundings few make their spiritual prosperity the first consideration.

Parents flock with their families to the cities because they fancy it easier to obtain a livelihood there than in the country. The children, having nothing to do when not in school, obtain a street education. From evil associates they acquire habits of vice and dissipation. The parents see all this; but it will require a sacrifice to correct their error, and they stay where they are until Satan gains full control of their children. Better sacrifice any and every worldly consideration than to imperil the precious souls committed to your care.-Testimonies for the Church 5:232 (1882).

Dwell in Atmosphere of Heaven.-We are to be guided by true theology and common sense. Our souls are to be surrounded by the atmosphere of heaven. Men and women are to watch themselves; they are to be constantly on guard, allowing no word or act that would cause their good to be evil spoken of. He who professes to be a follower of Christ is to watch himself, keeping himself pure and undefiled in thought, word, and deed. His influence upon others is to be uplifting. His life is to reflect the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness.-Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 257, 258 (1913).

Childhood Bias Shapes Destiny.-At a very early age children become susceptible to demoralizing influences, but parents who profess to be Christians do not seem to discern the evil of their own course of management. Oh, that they might realize that the bias which is given to a child in its earliest years gives a tendency to character and shapes the destiny either for eternal life or eternal death! Children are susceptible to moral and spiritual impressions, and those who are wisely trained in childhood may be erring at times, but they will not go far astray.-The Signs of the Times, April 16, 1896. (Child Guidance, 198.)

Parents Responsible in a Great Degree.-Parents are in a great degree responsible for the mold given to the characters of their children. They should aim at symmetry and proportion. There are few well-balanced minds because parents are wickedly negligent of their duty to stimulate weak traits and repress wrong ones. They do not remember that they are under the most solemn obligation to watch the tendencies of each child, that it is their duty to train their children to right habits and right ways of thinking.-Testimonies for the Church 5:319 (1885).

Begin in Infancy.-The parents' work must begin with the child in its infancy, that it may receive the right impress of character ere the world shall place its stamp on mind and heart.-The Review and Herald, August 30, 1881.(Child Guidance, 193.)

The Importance of the First Three Years of Life.-Mothers, be sure that you properly discipline your children during the first three years of their lives. Do not allow them to form their wishes and desires. The mother must be mind for her child. The first three years is the time in which to bend the tiny twig. Mothers should understand the importance attaching to this period. It is then that the foundation is laid.-MS 64, 1899. (Child Guidance, 194.)

The First Seven Years Have Much to Do With Character Formation.-Too much importance cannot be placed on the early training of children. The lessons that the child learns during the first seven years of life have more to do with forming his character than all that it learns in future years.-MS 2, 1903. (Child Guidance, 193.)

First Lessons Are Seldom Forgotten.-Neither infants, children, or youth should hear an impatient word from father, mother, or any member of the household; for they receive impressions very early in life, and what parents make them today, they will be tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. The first lessons impressed upon the child are seldom forgotten....

The impressions made on the heart early in life are seen in afteryears. They may be buried, but they will seldom be obliterated.-MS 57, 1897. (Child Guidance, 193, 194.)

Early Physical Development.-During the first six or seven years of a child's life special attention should be given to its physical training, rather than the intellect. After this period, if the physical constitution is good, the education of both should receive attention. Infancy extends to the age of six or seven years. Up to this period children should be left like little lambs, to roam around the house and in the yards, in the buoyancy of their spirits, skipping and jumping, free from care and trouble.

Parents, especially mothers, should be the only teachers of such infant minds. They should not educate from books. The children generally will be inquisitive to learn the things of nature. They will ask questions in regard to the things they see and hear, and parents should improve the opportunity to instruct and patiently answer these little inquiries. They can in this manner get the advantage of the enemy and fortify the minds of their children by sowing good seed in their hearts, leaving no room for the bad to take root. The mother's loving instructions at a tender age is what is needed by children in the formation of character.-Healthful Living, 44 (Part 2) . (Selected Messages 2:437.)

Special Care for First Child.-The first child especially should be trained with great care, for he will educate the rest. Children grow according to the influence of those who surround them. If they are handled by those who are noisy and boisterous, they become noisy and almost unbearable.-MS 64, 1899. (Child Guidance, 27.)

Different Environment for Differing Children.-There are some children who need more patient discipline and kindly training than others. They have received as a legacy unpromising traits of character, and because of this they need the more of sympathy and love. By persevering labor these wayward ones may be prepared for a place in the work of the Master. They may possess undeveloped powers, which when aroused, will enable them to fill places far in advance of those from whom more has been expected.-Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 115, 116 (1913).

Habits Are Seldom Changed in Later Life.-What the child sees and hears is drawing deep lines upon the tender mind, which no after circumstances in life can entirely efface. The intellect is now taking shape and the affections receiving direction and strength. Repeated acts in a given course become habits. These may be modified by severe training, in afterlife, but are seldom changed.-The Gospel Herald, January, 1880. (Child Guidance, 199, 200.)

Healing Influence of Kindness.-Under the influence of meekness, kindness, and gentleness, an atmosphere is created that will heal and not destroy.-Lt 320, 1906. (My Life Today, 152.)