A woman sat in my office not long ago and wept. Her heart was breaking over a poor choice she made years ago. That decision immediately bled profusely but the consequences have seeped into the very fine lines of her life and of those around her. The worst part? Her children, those who were born guiltless, are the ones suffering. One child has chosen a path much like the one she has traveled.

J. Oswald Sanders tells of two families from the state of New York that were studied extensively. One family was that of Max Jukes and his descendants. The other family was that of Jonathon Edwards.

Jukes was an unbelieving man and he married a woman who was of similar character. In fact, she lacked principle. The study included over 1,200 men and women who descended from this original couple.

Three hundred and ten became professional vagrants; 440 physically wrecked their lives by a depraved lifestyle; 130 were sent to the pen for an average 13 years each, seven of them for murder. There were over 100 who became alcoholics; 60 became habitual thieves; 190 prostitutes. The 20 who learned a trade, 10 of them learned the trade in a state prison. It cost the state about $1,500,000 and they made no contributions whatsoever to society.

In about the same time frame, the family of Edwards came on the scene. Edwards, a sincere man of God, married a woman who held similar beliefs. The path their family line took was a little different.

Three hundred family members became pastors, missionaries and theology professors; over 100 became college professors; over 100 became attorneys, 30 of them judges; 60 became physicians; over 60 became respected authors; 14 became university presidents.

History tells us that many American industry giants emerged from this family. Three became United States congressmen and one became the vice president of the United States. Combining the time spent in service, sacrifice and support, the contribution to society is immeasurable.

This study revealed some startling stories of individuals but the one fact that stands out is that like begets like.

So the question just begging to be penned here is, what are you like? What am I like?

It’s an important question because if we’re venomous, so shall our kids be. If we’re hateful and unforgiving, more than likely our sisters and brothers will mirror something similar. If we’re insecure and unsure, so will be those closest to us.

It’s a general principle, like begets like.

Thankfully that same idea goes the other way as well. If we’re teachable and pliable, our kids will be lifetime learners full of inquisitive playfulness. If we’re bubbling over with joy, our brothers and sisters will be delightfully infectious as well. If we’re determined to make a difference in this life, those closest will walk in cadence with us.

Like begets like. One life, your life and mine, gives birth to hundreds and hundreds of people. Will those people beg and steal and cheat society? Or will they give and serve and elevate society? I guess that all depends on what kind of people we are today.

(This column is sponsored by Larry and Linda Kloster.)

(1) comment


There's only one problem with the story of the Jukes: it's demonstrably untrue.

For more information, see http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/columnist/vergano/story/2012-07-02/eugenics-jukes-family/55944082/1

I'm also a little bit surprised to see you list Aaron Burr as a sort of pinnacle of virtue. (At least I assume that's the vice presidential descendant of Jonathan Edwards who you had in mind.) Burr killed Alexander Hamilton and was later charged with treason.

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