Hardwired to Sin

1 John 1:10

As future adoptive parents, my wife and I just completed a two-day course about the ways that neurochemistry determines the behaviors of children and parents. We learned that neuropathways form in an infant’s brain on the basis of a caregiver’s abuse or neglect. A child’s acting out is, most often, not the result of a deliberate decision, but the unconscious reaction that their brains have adapted in order to cope. Similarly, our reactions to our children’s behaviors will likely be determined by our parents’ care for us. When we are tired, hungry, or stressed, we will default to the “fight, flight, or freeze” behaviors we needed to survive as children.

I found this crash course to be a fascinating framework for thinking about sin. Sinning is an unavoidable part of being human. Whether our early years were traumatic or healthy, we were all hardwired to focus on our own needs at the expense of others. Our parents, who were wounded by their parents in some way, wounded us. No matter how hard we work to break the cycle, we will wound our children and they will wound theirs. But that is not the whole story.

At the end of the first day of training, our facilitator said, “You’ll find it’s better for your relationship to make a mistake in parenting and work through it with your child than to not make the mistake in the first place.” Jenny and I left that afternoon sobered by the hard journey ahead but buoyed by the Grace that will meet us, and our child, in our brokenness.


How is sin hardwired into your life?


God of grace, meet me in my brokenness. Amen.

This post originally appeared in Volume 27.3 of Reflections.

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  1. Beth McConnell says

    Yes. A sobering truth.
    And an opportunity to live well even with our wounds.