The concept that humans are born into the world as "blank slates" (from the Latin, tabula rasa) goes back as far as Aristotle. It found a strong proponent in the seventeenth century philosopher, John Locke. The idea was central to Lockean Empiricism, which helped to fuel the nurture side of the nature versus nurture debate that has continued throughout the centuries. The idea that humans are born without any trace of prior programming sounds like a good argument against Christianity's doctrine of "original sin," but I don't see it as plausible. While I don't believe in the doctrine of original sin, I do think that something more along the lines of karma is involved. Of course, just writing the word karma opens up another whole can of philosophical worms. If you believe that there is some sort of balancing of accounts and life actions from one lifetime to another, then you posit reincarnation as a given. That is something many people of the Christian faith are reluctant to do. Never mind that Jesus debated a karmic issue with his followers when they asked him about a man who had been born blind:
"1As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4“We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 6When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing."
(John 9:1-7, New American Standard Bible, http://biblehub.com/nasb/john/9.htm)
Note that his followers argue from the assumption of reincarnation. How could the man who had been born blind have sinned without having lived a previous life? Also note that Jesus didn't rebuke the idea that he could have caused it as a result of something done in a prior life. He also doesn't blame the parents for it, as we so often do even today. He goes directly to the heart of the matter, the reason being that his healing was to bring glory to God. Jesus clearly wasn't into casting blame. He was interested in helping others and bringing glory to God.
I do believe in reincarnation and karma, rather than original sin, although I see how that doctrine arose when there is clearly something going on with the human condition from very early on. We claim that we don't teach children to lie or steal, and yet often little children do just that. While I'm by no means certain that children don't learn to lie and steal through subtleties in the environment around them, I also don't think they arrive in the world as "blank slates." I think in the reincarnation process there are impressions left on our consciousness, and I think those impressions not only color our experiences in our next life, I think they influence them. I think we often have echoes of past life influences in our present lives. In fact, I think those echoes are often the root of present live issues. Those issues are the weeds that grow from the seeds that have been left behind. I think we can get by if we leave the weeds there, but the longer we allow them to grow unchecked, the more they suffocate the healthy plants. Some people may regularly mow down the weeds, often taking the healthy plants with them. Others may trim the weeds so the healthy plants can grow too and reach the light so they can survive.
The only way to know that you have a truly successful garden is to pluck up the weeds and plant good seed that will yield a crop of life-giving plants. Then you have to tend the garden and make sure there are no lingering weed seeds beneath the soil, waiting to spring up suddenly. You can get by in life by doing the bare minimum of work or none at all, or you can get it right and live life abundantly. But you have to dig down and get rid of what has produced the weeds in your life so you can sow seeds that grow into lush, healthy plants that sustain you and help you to thrive.
It is popular in the New Thought movement to attempt to change our lives using positive affirmations. While I support this good practice, affirmations alone are not enough. Affirmations are the good seeds that grow healthy plants, but they will be far more effectual if you dig up the roots of the weeds that were planted in your garden, either by you or someone else early in your life or as part of a former life. It takes work to do this. Not the back-breaking, blister-inducing kind. It requires the conscious-awareness kind of inner work that starts in quiet meditation.
Some people would prefer to dig ditches or swim the English Channel than to exercise the discipline of prayer and meditation. Those people should try working or walking meditation. This is the practice of working alone while in prayer and meditation. The key to this is intention. Choose to think about a particular part of your life that isn't working all that well. It might be finances, relationships, employment, health, or any number of other aspects of your life. Pick a topic while you are in quiet or moving meditation and see if you can't follow that trail back to see where that particular issue might have arisen. It isn't always easy, and it requires a honesty that may cause us to flinch, but it can be done. If you get all the way back to your present life birth and can find incidences there, then it is likely that the roots go back beyond this lifetime and maybe even several more lifetimes. In that case, you may have to seek out help with past life explorations. It may require several sessions exploring each issue until you find that you've dug up, released, and forgiven the final incidence.
How do you know when you've reached the end of the trail and plucked up the final weed at the root? When those affirmations you've been saying begin to take hold and yield a bountiful harvest. Even while you are digging, you will find that the affirmation part of the equation will begin to yield more and more fruit. You will know that you are on the right trail at least, but don't stop digging up the weeds until you feel totally free of that particular issue. Then you can go to work on the next issue. While you can work on multiple issues at once, you won't necessarily get free of each one at the same time. Just keep on working at it until you get it right. Or ignore this message and just keep on barely making it. No one but your higher self is going to be urging you to keep going. Your higher self wants to keep growing and improving your life. Your higher self wants you to experience abundant life.
It is your ego that is content with just getting by. It is your ego that tells you that you don't want to do the work. Your ego will supply you with lots of reasons not to grow strong and to get better. After all, if you are strong and healthy and prosperous, then there is no reason not to be fulfilling your life's goals. You no longer have an excuse. If you show the people in your world that you can do it on your own, then they might get the message that you need them any more to hold your hand. And then what? Then you grow into a fully functioning adult who can have relationships that are healthy rather than needy.
While that may feel scary now while you are doing the work, the more weeds you clear out of your life's garden, the more you will embrace the healthy crops that are growing and thriving in your life. As you fill your life with healthy plants, you'll realize how sick those weeds were making you feel. You'll want them out and the healthy plants in, but right now, you may just have to take my word for it until you get further along the path.
My garden isn't finished. Not by a long shot, but the more I work, the more motivated I am to get it right. I want the abundant life. I want good health and positive relationships. I want it enough to work for it and remove the weeds. Do you?