The answer is, yes. And it all depends on his upbringing, his family life.
The myth of childhood is that it is a happy, carefree time. But typically it is neither carefree nor happy; it is instead fraught with insecurity. I wrote a book several years ago, Raising a Happy Child, that seeks to change this fact of human development by fundamentally altering the quality of the relationship between parents and children.
Recently, when my niece and her husband had their first baby, I sent congratulations and offered the following “benediction” for their child.
“May the love and nurturing he receives from his parents and family provide him with the inner strength, security, and self-love to withstand the challenges he will face in the world we live in.
May he know from Kabbalah that his true self is the divine essence … light, goodness, loving ... and may he always return home to that essence throughout his life.
May he grow up to be a mensch, a credit to himself and to humanity.”
Let me address each of these points. First, what becomes of our lives is overwhelmingly a function of learned experience ... from our family, our peers, and the larger culture ... but first and foremost from our parents.
The vast majority of parents are good people and would not do anything intentionally to harm their child. But parents are people who are a function of their own upbringing and learned experience. They have their own fears, frustrations, angers, and desires. And they see things through the lens of that experience and those emotions, which in turn impacts how they interact with their children. The result is children who do not feel loved unconditionally, are as a consequence insecure, and grow up to become insecure adults who do not love themselves unconditionally. This is the primal basis of our fears and neuroses.
Bottom line, what we have is a dynamic of insecure parents raising insecure children who become insecure adults who raise insecure children who … It is a vicious cycle, and there are few things more important to the future wellbeing of mankind than breaking this cycle.
How can I say there are few things more important than this? Because all the world’s dysfunction … all the hatred, violence, prejudice, fear, whatever … is a function of people’s insecurity. (See my posts, “The Root of All Abuse and Violence - Insecurity,” “Insecurity Is the Cause of Social Conflict and War,” at PreservingAmericanValues.blogspot.com) For example, some people may exhibit huge egos, but they are in reality insecure children. Some are so overwhelmed by their insecurity that they turn to dark forces to protect themselves and become evil, divesting themselves of all their humanity.
I should note that when I speak of “unconditional” love this does not mean that parents should simply lavish praise on their children, give them what they want, or be uncritical of their children. Direction and criticism are important parental functions; the question is how they are given and in what context. The point is that children should never have any question that they are loved, even when they’re told they’ve done something they shouldn’t have.
The first benediction thus places the focus on parents’ responsibility to provide children with the nurturing they need to become secure, strong children and adults with good self-esteem and a clear understanding their inner ethics and morality. For more on how parents can achieve this, read Raising a Happy Child.
Before continuing, I should note that this child-rearing advice is contrary to much advice and certainly common practice. If we are honest, we will admit that the commonality of most families is not an ambiance of love and respect but rather stress and various forms of dysfunction. Modern parents often seek to prepare their children for life in a hostile world by making sure they have talents which they can weaponize to defeat the competition and have barriers to block both perceived attacks on themselves and thought of the interests of their fellow man. Such people grow up lacking humanity.
The second benediction speaks to the potential importance of religion in our lives. But not organized religion, unfortunately. All the mystical traditions of the three Abrahamic faiths … Gnosticism/
Christianity, Kabbalah/Judaism, Sufism/Islam … plus of course Buddhism and Hinduism teach the same basic spiritual premise: that all men are born with the divine/Buddha essence as their true self and that the true nature of man is thus peace and goodness. The lesson of organized religion is quite different.
They all further teach that what happens once they are born is that they become exposed to life experiences that form the ego, neurosis, and mental suffering. His true self becomes hidden from him. Only man can save himself, and he does that be reconnecting with his heart, his divine/Buddha essence.
The final benediction prays that the baby grows up to be a “mensch.” Mensch is a Yiddish word that basically means a decent human being, someone who acts with kindness towards his fellow man and leads an ethical life. This has in modern times become more of a social inheritance than a religious one. For example, I definitely learned to be a mensch from my parents, not from my involvement with Judaism as a youth. This is basically why most Jews are Democrats; they tend to have a more liberal, caring disposition to the lot of their fellow man.
But anyone can be a mensch, regardless of religion or ethnic background. Because to be a mensch really means to be a human being, not just in form/body, but in substance/heart.
Being a mensch all comes back to how we are raised. We will not act with kindness towards our fellow man and lead an ethical life if we are insecure and beset by neuroses. If we do not know that our true self is our heart, and that our heart is light, goodness, humility, compassion, gratefulness, love, faith, joy, contentment, strength, courage, and wisdom. If we do not reconnect with the divine/Buddha essence within us.
What we have come to accept as the human condition is not human nature, it is human nurture. It is how mankind has developed, how we have been raised, the culture we live in.
We have to live and work in the culture, we have to interact with it daily. But that does not mean that we have to live our lives on its terms. We can be true to our true selves, to our divine/Buddha essence, and still function in this culture, Actually, from a mental perspective, we will function much better in this culture with this changed persona, our true self, than with our old persona.