Julie’s Jar: Survival of the Compassionate

A young girl in a dark dress sits on a bench and smiles at the camera as she holds a twisty strand of fairy lights. The lights glow white-yellow in the dark.

“We are not survival of the fittest. We are survival of the nurtured…those who are nurtured best, survive best.”

~ Louis Cozolino, attachment researcher

First, “survival of the fittest” is an inaccurate portrayal of natural selection: Natural selection is a term used to describe how evolution unfolds. I have it on good authority from an evolutionary biologist I know that, “What matters is an organism can reproduce. It doesn’t matter if it’s strong or fast. The only thing that matters is if it can reproduce. Evolution is about repeating patterns; that’s it. A mule looks good on paper, but it can’t reproduce.”

The same evolutionary biologist then told an oft repeated joke in courses on evolution: “The way we measure evolutionary fitness is how many of offspring go on to reproduce, which is why your parents are so interested in having grandchildren: Their current evolutionary fitness is zero.”

Secondly, the framework is still wrong. Natural selection takes into account only that which is reproduceable. Still, the comparison got me to wondering. Children who are nurtured are more resilient in the face of challenges and are more compassionate with themselves and other people. Humanity needs more people who are resilient and compassionate, not less. Whether or not these attributes are reproduced is another matter.

It always amazes me when I hear people ascribe attributes like stubbornness and defiance to infants and toddlers. They’ve been on the planet less than 2 years. They are still figuring out how to make their basic needs known. When a child cries, it’s a cry for survival: Physical and emotional – it’s existential. They require nurture.

As we grow, that need for nurture continues; it changes, but it continues. We learn to nurture others, as long as someone along the way nurtured us. Sometimes, that is a parent. Sometimes it is a family friend or relative. Sometimes a person is fortunate enough to have had all of the above.

Our community of belonging is a place where people are nurtured. We are a hospital for the emotionally and spiritually wounded. We are a nursery for young people, where they can be affirmed and loved for who they are. We are a sanctuary for each other as we learn the art of compassion taught by Jesus.

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