Is Your DNA Your Destiny?

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 NRSV

MP900448595[1] When teaching a course in abnormal psychology, I often hear a question like, “My mother is depressed, does that mean I’m going to end up depressed too?”  The underlying assumption is that mental illness is a disease passed on genetically from one generation to another.

In some cases DNA does play a role in a person’s vulnerability to mental health problems. But it is only one of the many things impacting our state of mind.

What often gets missed in the conversation about genetics is the the idea that not only does DNA impact us, but we can impact our DNA. The influence our genes have on us is depends not just on the genes themselves, but on which genes are expressed.

If a gene never turns on, it will have little impact on me. So just because I have a depression gene in me, that does not mean I am going to become depressed. Just because I might have three generations of alcoholics in my family, that doesn’t mean I’m destined to be an alcoholic.

MP900398761[1] New science has discovered that gene expression depends on what goes on in the environment in which those genes are embedded. Since the way I think, feel and behave each day can impact the chemical environment of my body, they can also make certain genes more or less likely to be expressed.

All this means my DNA does little more than set the stage for who I become. It defines the limits and boundaries of what is possible. But who I actually become, the kind of person I turn into, is heavily influenced by the way I live.

Yes, I could become a depressed alcoholic, and drink until I lose everything. Or I could turn into a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, whose life is transformed by God’s grace. What I actually become is not just up to my DNA. Both are possible. How I think about myself, the kinds of emotions I cultivate, and the behaviors I practice each and every day of life also plays a role, by making one of those outcomes much more likely than the other.

Faces of Europe Germany Series Is your DNA your destiny? Instead of thinking about what your DNA might do to you, why not think about what you could do to express the more positive, life-affirming genes you have, and spend your days using your God-given potential to be a blessing and to make an impact on your world for Jesus Christ! That’s a destiny worth living for!

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