The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson

Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

Sins of the Fathers and of Youth

In this article when I speak of fathers I am referring to fathers or mothers, as well as the son referring to the sons or daughters.

Sins of the Fathers

The Judeo-Christian theology is a mixed bag on the topic of the sins of the father being vested upon the son. Generally, the sins against God may be vested upon the son, but the sins against another person are only vested in the person who committed the sin. This article is only concerned about the latter and does not address the former.

The law and ethics of our land are also only about the latter – and it is quite firm. The sins of the father may not be vested in the son. Each person is to be judged by their own words and deeds. Only during the sentencing, after guilt is determined, may there be a discussion of the sins of the father. And this discussion is only about mitigating factors that should determine the proper punishment of the guilty party.

This is how it should be as each person is only responsible for their own words and deeds and bears no responsibility for another’s words or deeds. This is not only true in a legal sense but should also be true in a moral and ethical sense. When judging another’s words or deed you should only be judging based on the individual’s words and deeds. The family, friends, and associations of a person may only be utilized for context and not judgment.

Sins of Youth

The sins of the youth are another matter. We must first differentiate between the criminal acts versus the moral or ethical lapses of youth. Upon obtaining legal age any criminal acts must be prosecuted and punished as violations of the law. The youth of the offender may only be utilized as mitigating factors that should determine the proper punishment of the guilty party. Moral and ethical lapses are a different story.

I can remember when I was young. How full of life, how exuberant, how carefree, how careless and reckless, and how impulsive I was. I made some decisions that I now regret as to moral and ethical issues in my life, as have most all young person’s when they mature have regrets and may be ashamed of their sins of youth.

We now know scientifically why the young are like this. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the Human Brain is located in the very front just behind the forehead. The PFC oversees abstract thinking and thoughtful analysis, it is also responsible for regulating behavior. This includes mediating conflicting thoughts, making choices between right and wrong, and predicting the probable outcomes of actions or events. This brain area also governs social control, such as suppressing emotional, sexual, or addictive urges. Since the PFC is the brain center responsible for taking in data through the body's senses and deciding on actions, it is most strongly implicated in human qualities like consciousness, general intelligence, and personality. Medical studies have shown that the PFC is the last section of the brain to mature. In other words, while all other brain regions are fully developed earlier in life, the PFC development is not complete until around age 25. (For more information on this subject visit the What is the Prefrontal Cortex? website of the wiseGeek).

This is why it is so difficult to reason with the young, to get them to consider the future consequences of their decisions, and to check their impulses. And this is how we should understand and judge the words and deeds of the young. Understand that the young are often behaving as they do due to the immaturity of their brains, as well as perhaps their upbringing. Give them some slack and not be too judgmental, depending on the severity of their words and deeds. And most importantly do not base your judgments on an adult upon the sins of their youth.

Remember that people mature, and as they mature they often learn to be better people. They also often have regrets or are ashamed of what they did in their youth. So, if you are judging an adult’s words and deeds base your judgment on the adult’s words and deeds and put little significance on their sins of youth.

You should also remember that if someone engaged in regretful or shameful behavior in their youth that you should rarely comment on this behavior in a condemning manner, especially when the adult is trying to provide guidance to a young person. After all, if they did it in their youth why cannot other young people do it? To this I respond with one of my one of my Truism:

Just because you have committed an unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act, and upon reflection determine that it is an unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act, does not preclude you from speaking out against others committing that unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act. It does not make you a hypocrite, it makes you repentant.
  - Mark Dawson