Jean Paul Sartre: "Existence precedes essence".
Whether we end up a hero or a drug addict, Sartre contends that we make ourselves into who or what we are. If we become a drug addicts, we have turned ourselves into drug addicts. There is no blaming our genes, or our parents, or our feelings, or our psychic pain from a past life. Likewise, if we become heroes, it is because we have turned ourselves into heroes.
We are not born alcoholics or drug addicts. We turn ourselves into them. Sure, there is now scientific evidence of an alcoholic allele, responsible for a predisposition to substance dependency. But we never become useless, selfish alcoholics unless we actually start drinking over and over and over and over. The booze doesn't crawl its way up our bodies and pour itself down our throats. Neither do we become addicts because of our sadness, or our family tree, or the stress of our lives. We do it to ourselves and therefore we are solely responsible for turning ourselves into addicts. We are solely responsible for breaking our minds and our bodies. We cannot blame anything or anyone for becoming alcoholic cowards.
I often get the chance to remind myself of Sartre's wisdom every time I beat myself up for not achieving something, for not having something, for not being completely f'ing enlightened. I get to remind myself that nothing external is to blame for what I am or for where I am in life. And sure, though my specific genetic structure and certain predispositions may coincide with who I am now, the cementing of my behaviors, my abilities, and my personality is my doing and my doing alone.
So the next time I sulk and cry into my pity pot, Sartre will kindly remind me that I am what I do, that I am making myself into who and what I am everyday... and therefore I can at any time simply get off my ass and change. And because Sartre was kind enough not to hoard his gifts, he reminds us all that our "existence precedes our essence".
God, help me to always remember that I make myself who I am through my own words, thoughts and actions...
Sartre, Kierkegaard & Existentialism